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Severe maternal morbidity and mortality among immigrant and Canadian-born women residing within low-income neighborhoods in Ontario, Canada


Importance — Evidence indicates that immigrant women and women residing within low-income neighborhoods experience higher adversity during pregnancy. Little is known about the comparative risk of severe maternal morbidity or mortality (SMM-M) among immigrant vs nonimmigrant women living in low-income areas.

Objective — To compare the risk of SMM-M between immigrant and nonimmigrant women residing exclusively within low-income neighborhoods in Ontario, Canada.

Design, Setting, and Participants — This population-based cohort study used administrative data for Ontario, Canada, from April 1, 2002, to December 31, 2019. Included were all 414 337 hospital-based singleton live births and stillbirths occurring between 20 and 42 weeks’ gestation, solely among women residing in an urban neighborhood of the lowest income quintile; all women were receiving universal healthcare insurance. Statistical analysis was performed from December 2021 to March 2022.

Exposures — Nonrefugee immigrant status vs nonimmigrant status.

Main Outcomes and Measures — The primary outcome, SMM-M, was a composite outcome of potentially life-threatening complications or mortality occurring within 42 days of the index birth hospitalization. A secondary outcome was SMM severity, approximated by the number of SMM indicators (0, 1, 2 or ≥3 indicators). Relative risks (RRs), absolute risk differences (ARDs), and odds ratios (ORs) were adjusted for maternal age and parity.

Results — The cohort included 148 085 births to immigrant women (mean [SD] age at index birth, 30.6 [5.2] years) and 266 252 births to nonimmigrant women (mean [SD] age at index birth, 27.9 [5.9] years). Most immigrant women originated from South Asia (52 447 [35.4%]) and the East Asia and Pacific (35 280 [23.8%]) regions. The most frequent SMM indicators were postpartum hemorrhage with red blood cell transfusion, intensive care unit admission, and puerperal sepsis. The rate of SMM-M was lower among immigrant women (2459 of 148 085 [16.6 per 1000 births]) than nonimmigrant women (4563 of 266 252 [17.1 per 1000 births]), equivalent to an adjusted RR of 0.92 (95% CI, 0.88-0.97) and an adjusted ARD of −1.5 per 1000 births (95% CI, −2.3 to −0.7). Comparing immigrant vs nonimmigrant women, the adjusted OR of having 1 SMM indicator was 0.92 (95% CI, 0.87-0.98), the adjusted OR of having 2 indicators was 0.86 (95% CI, 0.76-0.98), and the adjusted OR of having 3 or more indicators was 1.02 (95% CI, 0.87-1.19).

Conclusions and Relevance — This study suggests that, among universally insured women residing in low-income urban areas, immigrant women have a slightly lower associated risk of SMM-M than their nonimmigrant counterparts. Efforts aimed at improving pregnancy care should focus on all women residing in low-income neighborhoods.



Jairam JA, Vigod SN, Siddiqi A, Guan J, Boblitz A, Wang X, O’Campo P, Ray JG. JAMA Netw Open. 2023; 6(2):e2256203. Epub 2023 Feb 16.

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