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Neighbourhood material deprivation and severe maternal morbidity: a population-based cohort study in Ontario, Canada

Snelgrove JW, Lam M, Watson T, Richard L, Fell DB, Murphy KE, Rosella LC. BMJ Open. 2021; 11(10):e046174. Epub 2021 Oct 6. DOI:

Objectives — Rates of age-associated severe maternal morbidity (SMM) have increased in Canada, and an association with neighbourhood income is well established. Our aim was to examine SMM trends according to neighbourhood material deprivation quintile, and to assess whether neighbourhood deprivation effects are moderated by maternal age.

Design, Setting and Participants — A population-based retrospective cohort study using linked administrative databases in Ontario, Canada. We included primiparous women with a live birth or stillbirth at ≥20 weeks’ gestational age.

Primary Outcome — SMM from pregnancy onset to 42 days postpartum. We calculated SMM rate differences (RD) and rate ratios (RR) by neighbourhood material deprivation quintile for each of four 4-year cohorts from 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2018. Log-binomial multivariable regression adjusted for maternal age, demographic and pregnancy-related variables.

Results — There were 1 048 845 primiparous births during the study period. The overall rate of SMM was 18.0 per 1000 births. SMM rates were elevated for women living in areas with high material deprivation. In the final 4-year cohort, the RD between women living in high vs low deprivation neighbourhoods was 3.91 SMM cases per 1000 births (95% CI: 2.12 to 5.70). This was higher than the difference observed during the first 4-year cohort (RD 2.09, 95% CI: 0.62 to 3.56). SMM remained associated with neighbourhood material deprivation following multivariable adjustment in the pooled sample (RR 1.16, 95% CI: 1.11 to 1.21). There was no evidence of interaction with maternal age.

Conclusion — SMM rate increases were more pronounced for primiparous women living in neighbourhoods with high material deprivation compared with those living in low deprivation areas. This raises concerns of a widening social gap in maternal health disparities and highlights an opportunity to focus risk reduction efforts toward disadvantaged women during pregnancy and postpartum.

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