The unexpected deaths of four pregnant women in four different hospitals between Christmas and New Year's Eve has prompted an official investigation in Italy which was expected to deliver its first results Monday.
Over the weekend, Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin ordered inspections at the hospitals in Turin, Bassano del Grappa, Verona and Brescia to check for any "eventual errors" committed by medical staff.
"If somebody made a mistake, it is right that they should pay for it," Lorenzin said in an interview with the La Repubblica newspaper.
A report on what happened in Turin, where Angela Nesta died of a heart attack on December 26 during childbirth, along with her baby girl, was due to be delivered to the ministry on Monday. Findings from other hospitals were due to be handed in later in the week.
"I don't have the reports yet, so I can't make a judgement, but speaking to some experts I got the idea that they were coincidences. The cases are all different and they happened in big hospitals," Lorenzin said to La Repubblica.
According to World Bank data, Italy has one of the world's lowest maternal mortality ratios, at 4 per 100,000 live births.
Lorenzin said childbirth is "a natural, but exceptional" event that cannot be considered "risk-free," and said authorities can aim for "zero deaths, apart from those which are impossible to prevent and avoid."
The 44-year-old minister, who gave birth to twin baby girls in June, said it was also important to raise Italy's birthrate, as the latest available data show that only 502,600 babies were born in 2014, the lowest figure since the country was unified in 1861.
"This is the country's real emergency," Lorenzin said, warning of devastating societal and economic consequences, and saying that women cannot be "forced to choose between having a job and getting pregnant."