Background Severe acute maternal morbidity, accounting for any life-threatening complication during pregnancy or after delivery, is a major issue in maternal health. Measuring and monitoring it seems critical for assessing the quality of maternal health care. We explored the relevance of maternal ICU admission as an indicator of severe acute maternal morbidity by characterizing, among maternal ICU admissions, the profile of women with severe acute maternal morbidity and their ICU stay, according to the association with other criterion of severe acute maternal morbidity.
Methods Secondary analysis of a multiregional prospective population-based study of 2,540 women with severe acute maternal morbidity according to a multicriteria definition based on national experts’ consensus and including ICU admission.
Results 511 women were admitted to an ICU during or up to 42 days after pregnancy (2.8 per 1,000 deliveries; 20.1% of women with severe acute maternal morbidity); 15.5% had no other severe acute maternal morbidity criterion. Among women with severe acute maternal morbidity, on multivariable multinomial analysis and adjusting for cause, the odd of intensive care unit admission with another morbidity criterion was increased for migrant from outside of Europe or Africa (adjusted odds ratio = 2.1 [95% CI 1.3-3.4]), with multiple gestation (adjusted odds ratio =1.5 [1.0-2.2]), and intrapartum cesarean (adjusted odds ratio =1.5 [1.1-2.2]). The odd of intensive care unit admission with no other morbidity criterion was increased with pre-existing medical conditions (adjusted odds ratio =2.2 [1.2-4.0]) and cesarean before labor (adjusted odds ratio =3.0 [1.4-6.1]). Women admitted to an ICU with no other morbidity criterion had no interventions for organ support.
Conclusions Among women with severe acute maternal morbidity, one in five is admitted to an ICU; 15.5% of these have no other severe acute maternal morbidity criterion and their admission appears mostly indicated for continuous monitoring. The use of ICU admission alone as a single criterion morbidity is misleading to define severe acute maternal morbidity; this criterion needs to be refined to be included in the definition of severe acute maternal morbidity. These results also challenge the current organization of acute care for women with severe maternal morbidity.