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Development and internal validation of a model predicting severe maternal morbidity using pre-conception and early pregnancy variables: a population-based study in Ontario, Canada


Background — Improvement in the prediction and prevention of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) – a range of life-threatening conditions during pregnancy, at delivery or within 42 days postpartum – is a public health priority. Reduction of SMM at a population level would be facilitated by early identification and prediction. We sought to develop and internally validate a model to predict maternal end-organ injury or death using variables routinely collected during pre-pregnancy and the early pregnancy period.

Methods — We performed a population-based cohort study using linked administrative health data in Ontario, Canada, from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2014. We included women aged 18–60 years with a livebirth or stillbirth, of which one birth was randomly selected per woman. We constructed a clinical prediction model for the primary composite outcome of any maternal end-organ injury or death, arising between 20 weeks’ gestation and 42 days after the birth hospital discharge date. Our model included variables collected from 12 months before estimated conception until 19 weeks’ gestation. We developed a separate model for parous women to allow for the inclusion of factors from previous pregnancy(ies).

Results — Of 634,290 women, 1969 experienced the primary composite outcome (3.1 per 1000). Predictive factors in the main model included maternal world region of origin, chronic medical conditions, parity, and obstetrical/perinatal issues – with moderate model discrimination (C-statistic 0.68, 95% CI 0.66–0.69). Among 333,435 parous women, the C-statistic was 0.71 (0.69–0.73) in the model using variables from the current (index) pregnancy as well as pre-pregnancy predictors and variables from any previous pregnancy.

Conclusions — A combination of factors ascertained early in pregnancy through a basic medical history help to identify women at risk for severe morbidity, who may benefit from targeted preventive and surveillance strategies including appropriate specialty-based antenatal care pathways. Further refinement and external validation of this model are warranted and can support evidence-based improvements in clinical practice.



Dayan N, Shapiro GD, Luo J, Guan J, Fell DB, Laskin CA, Basso O, Park AL, Ray JG. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2021; 21(1):679. Epub 2021 Oct 6.

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