The Italian government has launched a string of investigations after five heavily pregnant women died in less than a week, causing alarm in a country with a reputation for safe childbirth.

Italy’s health ministry has sent investigative teams to four hospitals in the north of the country following the deaths of women between seven and nine months pregnant.

In the most recent case, 30-year-old Giovanna Lazzari died on New Year’s Eve during an emergency caesarean at a hospital in Brescia. The mother-of-two was eight months pregnant and had been admitted two days earlier suffering from a fever.

“Giovanna sent me an SMS in the middle of the night, telling me she was in serious pain and that she wasn’t receiving attention from the doctors,” her husband, Roberto Coppini, told Ansa news agency.

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