A critical analysis of maternal morbidity and mortality in Liberia, West Africa

Midwifery. 2012 Feb;28(1):67-72. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2010.12.001. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


Objective: To conduct a secondary analysis of maternal death and near-miss audits conducted at the community and facility level to explore the causes and circumstances surrounding maternal mortality and severe morbidity in one rural county in Liberia, West Africa.

Design: A non-experimental, descriptive design utilising maternal death and near-miss audit surveys was utilised for data collection. Thaddeus and Maine's Three Delays Model was used as a framework for analysis.

Setting: One rural county in north-central Liberia.

Participants: Interviews were conducted with (1) women who suffered a severe morbidity or nearmiss event, (2) family members of women who died or presented with a severe morbidity, and (3) community members or health workers involved in the care of the woman.

Measurements: (1) Maternal mortality, (2) near-miss events, and (3) delays related to problem identification, transportation challenges and delays after reaching the referral site.

Findings: 120 near-miss events and 28 maternal mortalities were analysed. 16% of all deliveries at the referral hospital were classified as near-miss events. Near-miss events were six times more common than deaths. The majority of women experiencing a near-miss event (85%) were in critical condition upon arrival at the hospital suggesting important delays were encountered in reaching the facility.

Key conclusions: Maternal mortality and near-miss audits allow exploration of medical and non-medical factors leading up to a severe complication or maternal death. Delays in reaching a referral hospital can have a significant impact on maternal survival rates.

Implications for practice: Audits can stimulate a change in clinical practice and help identify areas for county health departments to focus their scant resources. Audits can be used as a quality improvement tool in facilities. Results can be used to identify communities with high rates of delay to target educational programmes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liberia
  • Maternal Health Services / methods*
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Maternal Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Audit / methods*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / diagnosis
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / mortality*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult