DOCTORS should be able to review deaths linked to childbirth and pregnancy annually instead of every three years to reduce risks to expectant mothers, one of Scotland's leading obstetricians has said.

The Herald revealed yesterday that more than 40 women had died in Scotland as a result of childbirth in the past decade, and that the figure appeared to be on the rise with the number of mothers dying due to complications doubling between 2003 and 2009.

A further 20 deaths linked to pregnancy and childbirth during 2010 and 2011 are still being probed, although they can include women who died up to 12 months after giving birth and can include a range of circumstances, from suicide or road traffic accidents. Professor Allan Cameron, chairman of the Scottish Committee for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the figures would come as no surprise to the profession, but that doctors would welcome improvements to the way they are compiled.

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Mr Cameron said: "There's a lot of change at the moment and moves to standardise the data, which is good. The Scottish Government is putting money into it, for example advertising for a national clinical lead to cover this area, which will encourage a more rapid response.

"We would like to see the reports produced once a year instead of every three years. I think that would help the profession."

Mr Cameron added: "It's true that deaths in childbirth have unfortunately gone up compared to around 20 years ago. This is because there are many more high risk pregnancies due to mothers' increasing age and obesity."