Ethnic variations in severe maternal morbidity in the UK- a case control study

PLoS One. 2014 Apr 17;9(4):e95086. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095086. eCollection 2014.


Background: Previous studies showed a higher risk of maternal morbidity amongst black and other minority ethnic (BME) groups, but were unable to investigate whether this excess risk was concentrated within specific BME groups in the UK. Our aim was to analyse the specific risks and to investigate reasons for any disparity.

Methods: Unmatched case-control analysis using data from the United Kingdom Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS), February 2005-January 2013. Cases were 1,753 women who experienced severe morbidity during the peripartum period. Controls were 3,310 women who delivered immediately before the cases in the same hospital. Multivariable logistic regression modelling was used to adjust for known confounders and to understand their effects.

Results: Compared with white European women, the odds of severe maternal morbidity were 83% higher among black African women (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.83; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 1.39-2.40), 80% higher among black Caribbean (aOR = 1.80; 95% CI = 1.14-2.82), 74% higher in Bangladeshi (aOR = 1.74; 95% CI = 1.05-2.88), 56% higher in other non-whites (non-Asian) (aOR = 1.56; 95% CI = 1.05-2.33) and 43% higher among Pakistani women (aOR = 1.43; 95% CI = 1.07-1.92). There was no evidence of substantial confounding. Anaemia in current pregnancy, previous pregnancy problems, inadequate utilisation of antenatal care, pre-existing medical conditions, parity>3, and being younger and older were independent risk factors but, the odds of severe maternal morbidity did not differ by socioeconomic status, between smokers and non-smokers or by BMI.

Discussion: This national study demonstrates an increased risk of severe maternal morbidity among women of ethnic minority backgrounds which could not be explained by known risk factors for severe maternal morbidity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anemia / ethnology*
  • Anemia / mortality*
  • Black People*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic / mortality*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / ethnology