Maternal mortality in the developed world: a review of surveillance methods, levels and causes of maternal deaths during 2006-2010

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This article provides an overview of surveillance methods, levels, and causes of maternal mortality in developed countries, in Europe and the United States, during 2006-2010. Accurate identification of maternal deaths is not always possible, and no two countries in the world use the same surveillance methods for maternal mortality. Despite limitations (e.g. underestimation, misclassification), routine vital registration systems are the backbone of maternal mortality surveillance systems in developed countries. Enhanced surveillance methods involve linkages between deaths of women of reproductive age and births within the preceding year, or the use of additional data sources for maternal deaths. Confidential enquiries into maternal deaths, in place in France, the Netherlands, and the UK are the gold standard in maternal mortality surveillance. Levels of maternal mortality in Europe were the lowest in the world during 2006-2010. While Europe has not seen major changes in maternal mortality in recent years, pregnancy-related mortality increased considerably in the USA, where improvements in the identification of deaths appear to play a part. The triad of infection, hemorrhage, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which in the past accounted for >90% of all maternal deaths, now accounts for 60-70% of such deaths in developed countries. Maternal mortality surveillance provides learning opportunities to prevent future maternal deaths. There is need for integration of linked, multiple data sources into current maternal mortality surveillance systems to improve their utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-617
Number of pages10
JournalMinerva Ginecologica
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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