Purpose of review: Recognition of the increasing maternal mortality rate in the United States has been accompanied by intense efforts to improve maternal safety. This article reviews recent advances in maternal safety, highlighting those of particular relevance to anesthesiologists.
Recent findings: Cardiovascular and other chronic medical conditions contribute to an increasing number of maternal deaths. Anesthetic complications associated with general anesthesia are decreasing, but complications associated with neuraxial techniques persist. Obstetric early warning systems are evolving and hold promise in identifying women at risk for adverse intrapartum events. Postpartum hemorrhage rates are rising, and rigorous evaluation of existing protocols may reveal unrecognized deficiencies. Development of regionalized centers for high-risk maternity care is a promising strategy to match women at risk for adverse events with appropriate resources. Opioids are a growing threat to maternal safety. There is growing evidence for racial inequities and health disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality.
Summary: Anesthesiologists play an essential role in ensuring maternal safety. While continued intrapartum vigilance is appropriate, addressing the full spectrum of contributors to maternal mortality, including those with larger roles beyond the immediate peripartum time period, will be essential to ongoing efforts to improve maternal safety.