Portugal: Maternal mortality rate in 2020 highest in last 38 years

The maternal mortality rate in Portugal reached 20.1 deaths per 110,000 births in 2020, the highest level in the last 38 years, and the national health authority is investigating, according to Tuesday’s Jornal de Notícias newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the national health authority, DGS, has set up a multidisciplinary committee to study and monitor maternal deaths and serious maternal morbidity, which includes experts in obstetrics, internal medicine, anaesthesiologists, among others.

The newspaper adds that 17 women died due to complications of pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium in 2020.

Of the maternal deaths recorded in 2020, the DGS specifies, in a written response to the newspaper, that “eight happened during pregnancy, one during childbirth and eight in the puerperium (up to 42 days after childbirth). As for the place of death, 13 “occurred in health institutions”.

According to the national statistics institute, INE, a higher maternal mortality rate was registered in 1982, with 22.5 deaths per 100 thousand live births.

According to the DGS, these indicators should be analysed in time series, “preferably five to 10 years”.

The DGS adds that “since the beginning of this year, priority has been given to coding maternal deaths, so that the investigation process through an epidemiological enquiry may be as quick as possible to guarantee greater quality of the information necessary for the study and investigation of the phenomenon”.

“It is still being studied how to implement, in the future, an instrument to monitor the episodes of serious maternal morbidity”.

The director of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics of Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital, who is part of the Maternal Mortality Monitoring Commission, Diogo Ayres-de-Campos, told the newspaper that “this is a problem that has to be taken seriously”.

“If a deterioration of obstetric care is visible, the increase in the age of pregnancy and pregnant women with pathology, it is certain that each of the situations must be investigated.”

According to Diogo Ayres-de-Campos, “obstetric care, which has deteriorated, has to be rethought”.