• Open Access

Maternal mortality in Sweden 1988–2007: more deaths than officially reported


  • The authors have stated explicitly that there are no conflicts of interest in connection with this article.


Annika Esscher, Department of Women's and Children's Health (IMCH), University Hospital, SE-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden. E-mail: annika.esscher@kbh.uu.se



To obtain more accurate calculations of maternal and pregnancy-related mortality ratios in Sweden from 1988 to 2007 by using information from national registers and death certificates.


A national register-based study, supplemented by a review of death certificates.


Sweden, 1988–2007.


The deaths of 27 957 women of reproductive age (15–49 years).


The Swedish Cause of Death Register, Medical Birth Register, and National Patient Register were linked. All women with a diagnosis related to pregnancy in at least one of these registers within 1 year prior to death were identified. Death certificates were reviewed to ascertain maternal deaths. Maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths/100 000 live births, excluding and including suicides), and pregnancy-related mortality ratio (number of deaths within 42 days after termination of pregnancy, irrespective of cause of death/100 000 live births) were calculated.

Main outcome measures

Direct and indirect maternal deaths and pregnancy-related deaths.


The maternal mortality ratio in Sweden, based on the current method of identifying maternal deaths, was 3.6. After linking registers and reviewing death certificates, we identified 64% more maternal deaths, resulting in a ratio of 6.0 (or 6.5 if suicides are included). The pregnancy-related mortality ratio was 7.3. A total of 478 women died within a year after being recorded with a diagnosis related to pregnancy.


By including the 123 cases of maternal death identified in this study, the mean maternal mortality ratio from 1988 to 2007 was 64% higher than reported to the World Health Organization.