One’s only a number

Wed 16th May 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I wrote to my MP a while back, and she tabled a written question in Parliament, addressed to the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the death rate per million maternities from puerperal sepsis and other forms of septicaemia was in each year since 1999-2000; and if she will make a statement.”

The answer came from Ivan Lewis MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Dept of Health.

“Deaths from puerperal sepsis are very rare. The Department-sponsored confidential enquiry into maternal deaths 'Why Mothers Die' report for 2000-02 only identified five women who died of puerperal sepsis in the United Kingdom for the three years 2000 to 2002. This gives a maternal death rate of 2.5 per million maternities. The next report is due to be published later this year and will contain the figures for the three year period 2003-05.”

Well: if you discount the eight further deaths from sepsis before term or after caesarian, yes it's five. Wait, he didn't say that, he said “only...five women who died.” Oh silly me, getting all worked up about dead mothers – it's OK really after all, it's only five.

If you look at the years since 1984 - the last time no deaths from sepsis were recorded - 30 women have died from this easily treatable illness. If you look at pre-term and post-caesarians as well, add another 59.

But it doesn't matter, does it Mr Lewis? It's only 89 families without a mother; don't trouble Patsy with it, because each family has only lost one mother, and any statistician will say that it doesn't get much better than that.

The full answer to the original question, according to 'Why Mothers Die?', for the period 2000-02 is 13 deaths making a rate of 6.5 per million maternities.



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What is childbed fever?

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia. If left untreated infection will cause organ failure and death - even in young, fit mothers.
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We would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
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Who is Jessica?

Jessica Palmer was a Mum. She died in June 2004, at 34 years old, of childbed fever caused by Group A streptococcus.
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