Sexual and reproductive health

Request for comments on the revision of definitions of maternal deaths

Painting of four pregnant ladies

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The Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR) invites comments on the draft paper “Proposed revision of definitions of maternal deaths”. Comments may be sent to

The document is available in: Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

13 February 2017 - The identification of deaths during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period is a critical prerequisite for measurement of maternal mortality. However, in practice, the documentation and certification of maternal deaths and the accurate attribution of the cause of death has been an ongoing challenge. Errors may be due to varying interpretation of the current definitions or due to confusion on “how long after the end of pregnancy” or whether or not the death resulted from complications or sequelae of pregnancy and childbirth. This difficulty is believed to be one of the factors responsible for “misclassification,” which, along with incomplete reporting, accounts for the underreporting of maternal deaths in many countries.

Modifications to the definitions of maternal death are proposed as a means of facilitating improved documentation and quality of data classification. WHO/RHR invites comments on the utility and clarity of the proposed definitions related to maternal deaths from WHO Member States and other stakeholders. These comments will be compiled for discussion with the Mortality Reference Group of the International Classification of Disease (ICD); the reference body which approves changes to the ICD.

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