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Maternal Mortality

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of UK (a) maternal and (b) infant mortality rates against EU benchmarks; and if he will make a statement. (195397)

The United Kingdom is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. The UK rate for 2000-02 of seven maternal deaths per 100,000 pregnancies is comparable to that of France (17), Switzerland (seven) and the USA (14).

For the past 52 years, the UK is the only country in the world in which health professionals submit their work to review by their peers and they proactively notify the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health of any women they know have died.

The infant mortality rate for England was 5.0 per 1,000 live births in 2004, compared to the 2004 European Union average of 5.3 per 1,000, according to the latest World Health Organisation data. These rates have fallen by around 40 per cent. in the last 15 years and they are broadly comparable to other industrialised countries, according to the latest United Nations Children's Fund report. Action to reduce health inequalities in infant mortality continues to be a national priority.

It is difficult to make international comparisons due to differential definitions and data registration systems, and comparisons should be made with caution. The review system used to establish maternal death in the UK, unlike in other countries, covers not just those where death certificates name maternal death. The differences in registrations of live births mean that there are variations between countries in reporting live births and infant deaths.