Maternal near-miss and death and their association with caesarean section complications: a cross-sectional study at a university hospital and a regional hospital in Tanzania

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)



The maternal near-miss (MNM) concept has been developed to assess life-threatening conditions during pregnancy, childhood, and puerperium. In recent years, caesarean section (CS) rates have increased rapidly in many low- and middle-income countries, a trend which might have serious effects on maternal health. Our aim was to describe the occurrence and panorama of maternal near-miss and death in two low-resource settings, and explore their association with CS complications.


We performed a cross-sectional study, including all women who fulfilled the WHO criteria for MNM or death between February and June 2012 at a university hospital and a regional hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Cases were assessed individually to determine their association with CS. Main outcome measures included MNM ratio; maternal mortality ratio; proportion of MNM and death associated with CS complications; and the risk for such outcomes per 1,000 operations. The risk ratio of life-threatening CS complications at the university hospital compared to the regional hospital was calculated.


We identified 467 MNM events and 77 maternal deaths. The MNM ratio was 36 per 1,000 live births (95% CI 33–39) and the maternal mortality ratio was 587 per 100,000 live births (95% CI 460–730). Major causes were eclampsia and postpartum haemorrhage, but we also detected nine MNM events and five deaths from iatrogenic complications. CS complications accounted for 7.9% (95% CI 5.6–11) of the MNM events and 13% (95% CI 6.4–23) of the maternal deaths. The risk of experiencing a life-threatening CS complication was three times higher at the regional hospital (22/1,000 operations, 95% CI 12–37) compared to the university hospital (7.0/1,000 operations, 95% CI 3.8–12) (risk ratio 3.2, 95% CI 1.5–6.6).


The occurrence of MNM and death at the two hospitals was high, and many cases were associated with CS complications. The maternal risks of CS in low-resource settings must not be overlooked, and measures should be taken to avoid unnecessary CSs. More comprehensive training of staff, improved postoperative surveillance, and a more even distribution of resources within the health care system might reduce the risks of CS.

Publication ( Name of Journal)

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth