Maternal Mortality in Sweden Classification, Country of Birth, and Quality of Care

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: After decades of decrease, maternal mortality rates have shown a slight increase in Europe. Immigrants, especially Africans, have shown to be at higher risk than native women. This could not be explained solely by well-known obstetric and socio-economic risk factors. The aim of this thesis was to study incidence, classification and quality of care of maternal deaths in Sweden, with focus on the foreign-born population. The study population was identified through linkage of the Cause of Death Register, Medical Birth Register, and National Patient Register, and medical records obtained from hospitals. Data from registers, death certificates, and medical records were reviewed. Suboptimal care was studied by structured implicit review of medical records. Differences between foreign- and Swedish-born women were analysed by relative risks, Chi2- and Fisher’s exact test.Underreporting of maternal mortality was shown to be substantial: as compared to the official statistics, 64% more maternal deaths were identified. Women born in low-income countries were identified as being at highest risk of dying during reproductive age in Sweden. The relative risk of dying from diseases related to pregnancy was 6.6 (95% confidence interval 2.6–16.5) for women born in low-income countries, as compared to Swedish-born women. Major and minor suboptimal factors related to care-seeking, accessibility, and quality of care were found to be associated with a majority of maternal deaths and significantly more often to foreign-born women. Suboptimal factors identified included non-compliance, communication barriers, and inadequate care. The rate of suicides during pregnancy or within one year after delivery did not change during the last three decades, and was higher for foreign-born women. A majority of women who committed suicide had been under psychiatric care, but such documentation at antenatal care was inconsistent, and planning for follow-up postpartum was generally lacking.The conclusion of this thesis is that foreign-born women are a high-risk group for maternal death and morbidity that calls for clinical awareness with respect to their somatic and psychiatric history, care-seeking behaviour, and communication barriers. Cross-disciplinary care is necessary, both in obstetric emergencies and in cases of maternal psychiatric illness, to avert maternal death and suicide.