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Up to 40% of admissions of pregnant women to intensive care units could be prevented with better clinical care, University of Otago research suggests.
Researchers from the university's Wellington campus worked with clinicians in four district health boards to analyse cases of severe acute maternal illness.
Of 98 cases, 39% could have been prevented, and a further 37% were not preventable but could have received better care.
Lead researcher Bev Lawton said clinical care was the main factor in the most common preventable severe illnesses in pregnancy, blood-loss and septicaemia. Clinical factors were most often a failure to recognise a woman's high risk status, and delayed or inappropriate treatment.
''This is a real wake-up call - but using the review process that we've developed through our research, we can look at the performance of our maternity system and explore how severe maternal illness and death can be reduced.''
The study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.