Efforts to improve maternity ward cover at night pay off

Efforts to improve maternity services in Dutch hospitals during evenings and nights appear to have paid off, with infant mortality rates now showing no difference with daylight hours, according to medical magazine Medisch Contact.

This means smaller units which had been scheduled for closure can now stay open, the researchers told the magazine.

The alarm was raised in 2008 when a report using figures from 2000 to 2004 showed the infant death rate was 23% higher between 23.00 and 08.00 hours.

At the time, inexperienced staff were blamed for the difference and smaller hospitals said they would close their maternity units because they could not offer proper 24/7 cover.

But the new research, using later figures, shows no difference, indicating improvements have been made without requiring hospital closures.


The government has for years been making efforts to reduce the perinatal death rate in the Netherlands, which is one of the highest in Europe.

Researchers think there is a clear link between the infant mortality rate and the distance mothers must travel to hospital if something goes wrong with a home birth.

Although around 40% of Dutch women plan to give birth at home, only around 22% actually do so.

In January, a government committee published recommendations to deal with the Dutch perinatal death rate. It recommended the establishment of 24/7 maternity clinics at hospitals, so every women is no more than 15 minutes from specialist help.

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