Obstetricians reassure women about our maternity services

Obstetricians have today moved to reassure women about maternity services in Ireland following the Prime Time programme yesterday evening (31 January 2014).

Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, Consultant Obstetrician and spokesperson for the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We would like to extend our sympathies to the parents and families mentioned in last night’s programme who have suffered greatly. The death of every baby is an absolute tragedy and very traumatic for families.

“There are many pregnant women and their families who may be worried today. We would like to reassure them that they can have confidence in our maternity services. Ireland is a very safe country in which to have a baby. We have low rates of perinatal deaths (still births and death of a baby up to seven days after a child is born) when compared to neighbouring counties such as the UK or France and this rate continues to fall here.”

Professor McAuliffe continued: “With a rate of 5.9 per 1,000 live births and stillbirths, we compare favourably with the UK where, the perinatal mortality rate was 7.4 per 1,000 live and still births in 2010 and to France, where it was 12 per 1,000 live births and still births in 2010. Our intrapartum deaths (where a baby dies during labour) are extremely low at 1 per 2500 of all births for 2011, The rates are similar for all hospitals in Ireland and low in comparison to international standards (1 in 1400 UK 2008 and 1:2000 in Scotland in 2011).

“Advances in our antenatal, obstetric and neonatal care have resulted in a declining perinatal mortality rate. This rate has fallen by 10% in the four year’s since the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre (NPEC) reported national figures. This information is independently compiled, monitored and publically available. All maternity units voluntarily report this data to NPEC.

“Monitoring of the foetus during labour happens in all maternity units across the country in line with international norms. A national clinical guideline is available on monitoring of the foetus during labour,” she said

“While we have good outcomes in our maternity services, when things go wrong, we must learn from our mistakes. One of the key learnings from last night’s programme is that the suffering of the families was heightened by the lack of open communication. There must be a culture of openness and transparency across our health services in terms of how we communicate with families.”

“We have low rates of perinatal mortality despite the fact that our maternity services are understaffed and under resourced. Ireland has the lowest number of obstetricians per 100,000 women across all OECD countries. We need more resources to maintain and improve standards of care. We must also maximize how we use existing resources,” Prof. McAuliffe added.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is committed to working with the HSE through the National Clinical Programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology to continue to improve our maternity services and to maintain our low rates of maternal and perinatal mortality. The Clinical Programme, which commenced in 2010, has published guidelines for clinicians which are developed following a review of best practice in a number of jurisdictions.


Kate Healy: 01 8639 698,085 8722109 katehealy@rcpi.ie

Paul Anderson: 01 8639 794085 850 2005 paulanderson@rcpi.ie

Related Links

Read more about the National Clinical Programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology