Maternal morbidity and near miss in the community: findings from the 2006 Brazilian demographic health survey


Dr JG Cecatti, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Campinas-UNICAMP, PO Box 6030, 13083-881 Campinas, Brazil. Email


Please cite this paper as: Souza J, Cecatti J, Parpinelli M, Sousa M, Lago T, Pacagnella R, Camargo R. Maternal morbidity and near miss in the community: findings from the 2006 Brazilian demographic health survey. BJOG 2010;117:1586–1592.

Objective  To obtain an estimate of the prevalence of potentially life-threatening maternal conditions and near-miss events in Brazil, and to explore the factors associated with these complications.

Design  A demographic health survey (DHS) focusing on reported maternal complications.

Setting  Data from the five geographical regions of Brazil.

Population  A total of 5025 women with at least one live birth in the 5-year reference period preceding their interview in the DHS.

Methods  A secondary analysis of the 2006 Brazilian DHS database was carried out using a validated questionnaire to evaluate the occurrence of maternal complications and related key interventions. According to a pragmatic definition, any woman reporting the occurrence of eclampsia, hysterectomy, blood transfusion or admission to the intensive care unit was considered as having experienced a near-miss event. Associations between the sociodemographic characteristics of the women and severe maternal morbidity were evaluated.

Main outcome measures  Proportions and ratios of complications and related interventions defined as maternal near miss in pregnancy, and estimated risk factors for maternal morbidities.

Results  Around 22% of women reported complications during pregnancy. The prevalence of maternal near miss in Brazil, using the pragmatic definition, was 21.1 per 1000 live births. An increased risk of severe maternal morbidity was found in women aged ≥40 years and in those with low levels of education.

Conclusions  Nearly 70 000 maternal near-miss cases and approximately 750 000 cases with potentially life-threatening conditions are estimated to occur in Brazil per year. A pragmatic definition of maternal near miss was useful to obtain more reliable information at the community level. This approach could be used to gather information on maternal morbidity in settings in which such data are not routinely collected.