Reductions in government healthcare spending in the European Union (EU) increase maternal mortality rates, suggests a new paper in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).
Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth, or within 42 days of delivery from direct obstetric causes. The new analysis looked at the association between reductions in government healthcare spending and maternal mortality across the European Union (EU) over a 30 year period, from 1981 to 2010, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) database. Data were available for 24 EU countries, a population of 419 million people (2010).
The study found that for every 1% decrease in government healthcare spending, EU countries experienced an average 10.6% annual increase in maternal mortality. This association also remained significant for 1 year after the spending cut.
However, if skilled birth attendants are in place, the association disappears. Where are these women having babies with no one skilled in attendance? They stop going to the hospital if health care cuts happen?
Regardless, when accounting for the percentage of births attended by people trained to give the necessary supervision, care and advice to women during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period, there was no effect.
Professor Thomas Zeltner, University of Bern, Switzerland, Special Envoy for Financing to the Director General of the World Health Organization and co-author of the paper says, "With reduced government spending in this area in times of austerity, policy makers need to be aware of the consequences of the budget cuts. If cost-reductions are matched by sufficient increases in efficiency, quality of care may remain.
"Our results suggest that reductions in government healthcare spending are associated with increased maternal mortality rates in the EU. This may occur due to a variety of reasons such as reductions in the number of births attended by skilled health professionals."