To determine the level of near-miss maternal mortality and morbidity due to severe obstetrical complications or maternal disease in a tertiary maternity hospital.
A free-standing maternity hospital delivering 5500 infants per year.
The information coded in the perinatal database concerning women who had required transfer for critical care to a general hospital was reviewed for the 14 year period 1980 to 1993. The complications necessitating transfer and the specialised consultants and services required were noted.
Over 14 years there were 76,119 women delivered with two maternal deaths (2.6/100,000). Fifty-five women required transfer for critical care (0.7/1000). The main reasons for transfer were hypertensive disease (25%), haemorrhage (22%) and sepsis (15%). Transfer to an intensive care unit was required by 80%, and the remainder were transferred to specialised medical or surgical units. Twenty different specialist groups were consulted. The 55 patients spent 280 days in critical care and 464 days hospital after-care (mean 13 days, range 3-92).
A review of near-miss maternal mortality helps delineate the continuing threats to maternal health and the type of support services most commonly required.