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OBJECTIVES: Local reviews of the care of women who die in pregnancy and post-birth should be undertaken. We investigated the quantity and quality of hospital reviews. DESIGN: Anonymised case notes review. PARTICIPANTS: All 233 women in the UK and Ireland who died during or up to 6 weeks after pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management in 2012-2014. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The number of local reviews undertaken. Quality was assessed by the composition of the review panel, whether root causes were systematically assessed and actions detailed. RESULTS: The care of 177/233 (76%) women who died was reviewed locally. The care of women who died in early pregnancy and after 28 days post-birth was less likely to be reviewed as was the care of women who died outside maternity services and who died from mental health-related causes. 140 local reviews were available for assessment. Multidisciplinary review was undertaken for 65% (91/140). External involvement in review occurred in 12% (17/140) and of the family in 14% (19/140). The root causes of deaths were systematically assessed according to national guidance in 13% (18/140). In 88% (123/140) actions were recommended to improve future care, with a timeline and person responsible identified in 55% (77/140). Audit to monitor implementation of changes was recommended in 14% (19/140). CONCLUSIONS: This systematic assessment of local reviews of care demonstrated that not all hospitals undertake a review of care of women who die during or after pregnancy and in the majority quality is lacking. The care of these women should be reviewed using a standardised robust process including root cause analysis to maximise learning and undertaken by an appropriate multidisciplinary team who are given training, support and adequate time.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





clinical governance, obstetrics, quality in health care, risk management