Skip to main content

Definition and classification of Maternal Death

Definition and classification of Maternal Death

A maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy*, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.

Maternal deaths are subdivided into two groups, direct and indirect obstetric deaths.

*This includes delivery, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or termination.

Complications of pregnancy or childbirth can lead to death beyond the 6 weeks’ postpartum period and are classified as a late maternal death.


Classification of Maternal Deaths

  • Direct obstetric deaths: direct obstetric deaths are those resulting from obstetric complications of the pregnancy state (pregnancy, labour and the puerperium), from interventions, omissions, incorrect treatment, or from a chain of events resulting from any of the above.
  • Indirect obstetric deaths: indirect obstetric deaths are those resulting from previous existing disease or disease that developed during pregnancy and which was not due to direct obstetric causes, but which was aggravated by physiologic effects of pregnancy.
  • Coincidental maternal deaths. Deaths from unrelated causes which happen to occur in pregnancy or the puerperium
  • Late Maternal Deaths: the death of a woman from direct or indirect obstetric causes, more than 42 days, but less than 1 year after termination of pregnancy.



International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, Geneva, World Health Organization, 2004


MDE Ireland, in collaboration with MBRRACE UK, aims to report on all cases of maternal death occurring during or within one year of the pregnancy

Maternal Death Enquiry - Ireland

Co-ordinator MDE Ireland 5th Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital Wilton Cork