About a third of pregnant women admitted to intensive care units and high dependency units in New Zealand had potentially preventable severe illnesses. Another 29.5 per cent were not preventable, but better care was needed.
The findings are the work of a study conducted by researchers at Victoria University of Wellington, Te Tātai Hauora o Hine Centre for Women’s Health Research and the University of Otago.
Professor Beverley Lawton, lead author on the study, said these women did not need to get as sick as they did and called the ethnic disparity in standard of care “unacceptable”.
Overall 6.2 women per 1000 pregnancies were admitted to New Zealand intensive care units (ICUs) and high dependency units (HDUs) because of these life-threatening complications during pregnancy, the study shows.
Pacific women were the most likely to be admitted at a rate of 10.4 per 1,000 deliveries, compared with 4.6 for New Zealand European women.
The rate for Māori women was 5.6, for Indian women 7.2 and for other Asian women 8.2.
The three most common reasons for admission to an ICU or HDU were major blood loss, preeclampsia-associated (toxaemia) conditions or severe sepsis (infection).
During the study, multidisciplinary review committees reviewed 339 anonymised severe maternal morbidity (SMM) cases in depth examining potential preventability.
They asked the question, “Should this woman have gotten as sick as she did?”, and they found that only 36.5 per cent of cases were managed appropriately.