Leading doctors have called for better training in response to the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth.
The call, published in the British Medical Journal, comes at a time when a greater number of older and obese women are falling pregnant as high-risk pregnancies rise.
Catherine Nelson-Piercy, Professor of Obstetric Medicine at King's College London, and colleagues said that such women can suffer a complex combination of health issues.
They called for GPs and doctors to be vigilant, saying most deaths occur as a result of treatable medical conditions.
The group called for improvements to be made to GP training and for more obstetric physicians to be recruited.
It was claimed that it was 'worrying' that more women are dying from conditions which aren't directly related to pregnancy.
Heart disease is the biggest cause of maternal death, followed by neurological disease.
Most of these deaths are associated with substandard care and "in one third of cases this is classified as major substandard care, where different care might have prevented death of the mother," they added.
"These failings require urgent attention."
Earlier this year a Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE) report found that in the years 2006 to 2008, 261 women in Britain died from conditions directly or indirectly related to pregnancy. Some 154 of these died of infections, underlying health problems and other indirect causes.
Copyright © Press Association 2011
We asked if you think the failings are due to substandard care. Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I too deplore the blame culture and the dependency on the NHS to treat and cure all ills. Individuals need to be more responsible for their own health. Major health and good health promotion education is needed coupled with responsibilities if rights are to be absolute" - V Henry, London
"I think women need to take responsibility for their weight before they get pregnant. We are so in a culture of blame. And not expect someone else to take the blame if things go wrong. It may be women's negligence and not medical negligence. We need to stop pointing fingers!" - Jill Langford, London
"Yes I do, and they are similar to those failings around caring for the elderly or any other social discriminated against group. I had a baby at aged 42 in St Thomas' and the attitude of the nursing staff towards me and a number of other mothers was that of contempt. God help me if I'd really needed their so-called care" - Vicki Wharton, London
"Yes I do but mainly in the hospital. I lost my sister as a result of this" - Patricia Foote
"No! Childbearing age women do NOT need to be obese.
Nurses and GPs must tackle the problems BEFORE pregnancy" - Louise Webb, Reading
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