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OBJECTIVE: To describe the risk of maternal sepsis associated with obesity and other understudied risk factors such as operative vaginal delivery. DESIGN: Population-based, case-control study. SETTING: North NHS region of Scotland. POPULATION: All cases of pregnant, intrapartum and postpartum women with International Classification of Disease-9 codes for sepsis or severe sepsis recorded in the Aberdeen Maternal and Neonatal Databank (AMND) from 1986 to 2009. Four controls per case selected from the AMND were frequency matched on year-of-delivery. METHODS: Cases and controls were compared; significant variables from univariable regression were adjusted in a multivariable logistic regression model. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Dependent variables were uncomplicated sepsis or severe ('near-miss') sepsis. Independent variables were demographic, medical and clinical delivery characteristics. Unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) are reported. RESULTS: Controlling for mode of delivery and demographic and clinical factors, obese women had twice the odds of uncomplicated sepsis (OR 2.12; 95% CI 1.14-3.89) compared with women of normal weight. Age <25 years (OR 5.15; 95% CI 2.43-10.90) and operative vaginal delivery (OR 2.20; 95% CI 1.02-4.87) were also significant predictors of sepsis. Known risk factors for maternal sepsis were also significant in this study (OR for uncomplicated and severe sepsis respectively): multiparity (OR 6.29, 12.04), anaemia (OR 3.43, 18.49), labour induction (OR 3.92 severe only), caesarean section (OR 3.23, 13.35), and preterm birth (OR 2.46 uncomplicated only). CONCLUSIONS: Obesity, operative vaginal delivery and age <25 years are significant risk factors for sepsis and should be considered in clinical obstetric care.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





474 - 483


Abortion, Septic, Adult, African Continental Ancestry Group, Age Distribution, Analysis of Variance, Asian Continental Ancestry Group, Bacteremia, Body Mass Index, Case-Control Studies, Cesarean Section, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1, European Continental Ancestry Group, Female, Hospitals, Maternity, Hospitals, University, Humans, Incidence, Infant, Newborn, Logistic Models, Maternal Mortality, Multivariate Analysis, Obesity, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Infectious, Prevalence, Puerperal Infection, Risk Factors, Sampling Studies, Scotland