Severe maternal morbidity and other perinatal complications among women with physical, sensory, or intellectual and developmental disabilities

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2022 Sep;36(5):759-768. doi: 10.1111/ppe.12873. Epub 2022 Apr 18.


Background: Little is known about severe maternal morbidity (SMM) among women with disabilities.

Objective: We assessed differences in SMM and other perinatal complications by presence and type of disability. We hypothesised that SMM and other complications would be more common in births to women with disabilities than to women without disabilities.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of California births from 2000 to 2012, using birth and death certificate data linked with hospital discharge data. We included singleton deliveries with gestational age of 23-42 weeks. We classified women as having any disability or not and identified disability type (physical, hearing, vision, intellectual/developmental disabilities [IDD]). Our primary outcome was a composite indicator of SMM. Secondary outcomes included additional perinatal complications: gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, venous thromboembolism, chorioamnionitis, puerperal endometritis and mental health disorders complicating pregnancy, childbirth or the puerperium. We used modified Poisson regression to obtain covariate-adjusted relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association of disability status and type with SMM and secondary outcomes.

Results: Of 5,787,090 deliveries, 33,044 (0.6%) were to women with disabilities. Of these, 311 per 10,000 were complicated by SMM, compared with 84 per 10,000 deliveries to women without disabilities. In multivariable analyses, risk of SMM for births to women with disabilities was nearly three times that for women without disabilities (RR 2.84, 95% CI 2.67, 3.02). Proportion and risk of SMM were greatest for vision disability (793 per 10,000; RR 4.04, 95% CI 3.41, 4.78). Secondary outcomes were also more common among women with disabilities. In particular, more than a third of births to women with IDD (37.4%) were complicated by mental health disorders (versus 2.2% for women without disabilities).

Conclusion: As hypothesised, SMM and other perinatal complications were more common among women with disabilities than among women without disabilities.

Keywords: disabled persons; intellectual disability; morbidity; persons with hearing impairments; pregnancy complications; visually impaired persons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability* / epidemiology
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications* / etiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Retrospective Studies