Identification of severe maternal morbidity during delivery hospitalizations, United States, 1991-2003

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Aug;199(2):133.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.12.020. Epub 2008 Feb 15.


Objective: This investigation aimed to identify pregnancy complications and risk factors for women who experienced severe maternal morbidity during the delivery hospitalization and to estimate severe maternal morbidity rates.

Study design: We used the National Hospital Discharge Survey for 1991-2003 to identify delivery hospitalizations with maternal diagnoses and procedures that indicated a potentially life-threatening diagnosis or life-saving procedure.

Results: For 1991-2003, the severe maternal morbidity rate in the United States was 5.1 per 1000 deliveries. Most women who were classified as having severe morbidity had an ICD-9-CM code for transfusion, hysterectomy, or eclampsia. Severe morbidity was more common at the extremes of reproductive age and for black women, compared with white women.

Conclusion: Severe maternal morbidity is 50 times more common than maternal death. Understanding these experiences of these women potentially could modify the delivery of care in healthcare institutions and influence maternal health policy at the state and national level.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Length of Stay
  • Maternal Age
  • Morbidity
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States / epidemiology