WHO definition: Deaths occurring "while pregnant or within 42 days (6/52) of termination of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes".
England and Wales confidential enquiry (since 1952) divides maternal deaths into the following categories:
- "direct" (56%) - resulting from obstetric complications of pregnancy, labour, and the puerperium - mainly pulmonary embolus and maternal hypertension)
- "indirect" (34%) - resulting from an existing disease or from one which developed in pregnancy
- "fortuitous" (10%) - causes not relating to pregnancy.