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Virus caused maternal deaths

Friday August 21st 2020

At least eight women died during or shortly after pregnancy from COVID-19 infection, mostly women from ethnic minorities, according to a new analysis by two royal colleges.

The women represented half the maternal deaths during March, April and May, according to the analysis conducted by the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Another two women had the virus at the time of death – although death was recorded as being from other causes. There were four maternal deaths from suicide and two from domestic violence during the period.

The colleges said the findings showed the importance of ensuring a multi-disciplinary team worked with vulnerable women. They also call for “clear information” to be given to high-risk women to help them manage their own health.

They also suggested that maternity care might have been affected by redeployment of staff during the pandemic. The work was undertaken as part of the MMBRACE continuing investigation of maternity care.

RCOG president Dr Edward Morris said: “The guidance makes clear that pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 must have multi-disciplinary maternity care and states there should be a low threshold for review of pregnant Black, Asian, and minority ethnic women with COVID-19.

“Addressing health inequalities is a key priority for the College, and we established a Race Equality Taskforce earlier this month to focus on reducing adverse outcomes in BAME women. This report highlights that we must also ensure that services are fit to support vulnerable women who are victims of domestic violence or abuse.

“Future pandemic planning should ensure that the care of pregnant women is not compromised by redeployment of maternity staff and that access to face-to-face antenatal and postnatal care for women who need support with their mental health is prioritised.”

The midwife college chief executive Gill Walton added: “Isolation during the pandemic has been very difficult for some women during their pregnancy and after birth. That is why we must ensure that they are able to access appropriate community-based care from midwives, health visitors and perinatal mental health teams.

“While we welcome the greater use of technology to support pregnant women, it is not a wholesale substitute for face-to-face support. This is particularly true for picking up on safeguarding issues, including women at risk of domestic abuse. We fully support those maternity teams offering a blended approach, giving the reassurance of ongoing virtual contact alongside the ‘in person’ appointments that allow women to get timely help and support.”

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Flu & Viruses | NHS | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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