Sunday, 29 April 2012

Maybe our older mothers need as much education as their teenage counterparts

There is a truly shocking statistic reported in the Sunday Telegraph today. The number of women dying in childbirth in London has doubled in the past five years and at 20 maternal deaths per 100,000 births this is more than twice the level in the rest of the UK.

It is thought that this disturbing figure is due to several factors, including an increased number of older mothers, rising obesity, increased popularity of fertility treatment and higher levels of social deprivation, all more significant in cities. Throw into the mix the extreme pressure on NHS maternity services and this may be a trend that’s going to be difficult to reverse.

My last post focused on the need to not only offer contraception to young teens but to expose them to targeted education. It would appear that the need for tailored information is just as great for their older, and one would hope wiser, sisters (and mothers). Just as vital in teaching the need for pregnancy planning, wellbeing and responsible behaviour in teens, there is clearly a major public health requirement for maternal education at all ages.

The number of women over 40 giving birth has doubled in the UK in the past decade. As more and more women delay their planned pregnancies for financial and possibly career reasons the spectre of reduced fertility rears its ugly head. Those lucky enough to get pregnant over 35 are exposed to increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and placenta previa. General state of health is vital to support a successful pregnancy and birth so obesity and other conditions more common in middle years will have an adverse effect on birth outcomes.

Sadly, it’s not just the mothers who can suffer – the rate of genetic abnormalities in babies rises to 4 per 1000 in mothers over 40 years.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a baby while they are still ‘young’ for all sorts of reasons and I wish every ‘mature’ woman who hopes to get pregnant all the very best of luck and good health for her and her baby. But we must do everything we can to reduce this worrying maternal death rate in UK’s capital city. Increased education for all fertile age groups regarding healthy lifestyles, planned pregnancy and pregnancy management, supported by wise investment in maternity services will be cost effective and life-saving.

It’s not just the young who need help.


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