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SAGE Open Med. 2017 Nov 13;5:2050312117740490. doi: 10.1177/2050312117740490. eCollection 2017.

Pregnancy associated death in record linkage studies relative to delivery, termination of pregnancy, and natural losses: A systematic review with a narrative synthesis and meta-analysis.

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Elliot Institute, Springfield, IL, USA.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.



Measures of pregnancy associated deaths provide important guidance for public health initiatives. Record linkage studies have significantly improved identification of deaths associated with childbirth but relatively few have also examined deaths associated with pregnancy loss even though higher rates of maternal death have been associated with the latter. Following PRISMA guidelines we undertook a systematic review of record linkage studies examining the relative mortality risks associated with pregnancy loss to develop a narrative synthesis, a meta-analysis, and to identify research opportunities.


MEDLINE and SCOPUS were searched in July 2015 using combinations of: mortality, maternal death, record linkage, linked records, pregnancy associated mortality, and pregnancy associated death to identify papers using linkage of death certificates to independent records identifying pregnancy outcomes. Additional studies were identified by examining all citations for relevant studies.


Of 989 studies, 11 studies from three countries reported mortality rates associated with termination of pregnancy, miscarriage or failed pregnancy. Within a year of their pregnancy outcomes, women experiencing a pregnancy loss are over twice as likely to die compared to women giving birth. The heightened risk is apparent within 180 days and remains elevated for many years. There is a dose effect, with exposure to each pregnancy loss associated with increasing risk of death. Higher rates of death from suicide, accidents, homicide and some natural causes, such as circulatory diseases, may be from elevated stress and risk taking behaviors.


Both miscarriage and termination of pregnancy are markers for reduced life expectancy. This association should inform research and new public health initiatives including screening and interventions for patients exhibiting known risk factors.


Maternal mortality; abortion; health policy; longevity; miscarriage; pregnancy associated death; pregnancy loss; pregnancy screening; risk factors; termination of pregnancy

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of conflicting interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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