Assessing preventability of maternal mortality in Illinois: 2002-2012

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Dec;211(6):698.e1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2014.06.046. Epub 2014 Jun 20.


Objective: We sought to describe the potential preventability of pregnancy-related deaths in Illinois from 2002 through 2012 as determined by perinatal centers following the Illinois maternal death review process.

Study design: We conducted a retrospective review of all known maternal deaths in the state from 2002 through 2012 with complete records in the Illinois Department of Public Health's Maternal Mortality Review Form database. The association between causes of death and potential preventability was analyzed for pregnancy-related deaths.

Results: There were 610 maternal deaths in Illinois during the study period (31.8 per 100,000 live births). One-third of maternal deaths (n = 210) were directly or indirectly related to pregnancy, 7.0% (n = 43) were possibly related, and 52.6% (n = 321) were unrelated. Vascular causes were the most common cause of pregnancy-related death, followed by cardiac causes and hemorrhage. One-third of deaths directly or indirectly related to pregnancy were deemed potentially preventable. Hemorrhage and deaths due to psychiatric causes were most likely to be considered avoidable, while cancer and vascular-related deaths were generally not considered preventable.

Conclusion: This analysis of pregnancy-related deaths in Illinois, the first in >60 years, found similar causes of death and potential preventability as pregnancy-related death reviews in other states. Analyzing the causes of pregnancy-related death is a critical and necessary step in improving maternal health outcomes, particularly in decreasing potentially preventable pregnancy-related deaths. Greater attention should be directed toward intervening on the provider, systems, and patient factors contributing to preventable deaths.

Keywords: maternal mortality; pregnancy-related deaths; preventability.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Humans
  • Illinois / epidemiology
  • Maternal Death / prevention & control*
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Mental Disorders / mortality
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / mortality*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / mortality
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / mortality
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult