The objective was to determine the levels of maternal morbidity from no complications to near miss and describe factors associated with different levels of morbidity. We conducted an observational study of all women delivering at a tertiary hospital in Accra, Ghana between October 2010 and March 2011. We examined the factors associated with the continuum of maternal outcomes in terms of severity using multinomial logistic regression. Data were extracted from women's maternal care files with the main outcome measures of no complications, non-life threatening complications, potentially life-threatening conditions (PLTC), and near miss as defined by World Health Organization. Our study includes 1,586 women with no complications, 1,205 women with non-life threatening complications, 516 women with PLTC, and 94 near-miss cases. All of the factors associated with PLTC and near-miss cases were similar. None of the socio-demographic variables remained significant in the multivariate analysis comparing different levels of severe morbidity with no complications. Women with no complications shared similar characteristics with women who experienced non-life threatening complications. As compared to women who had no complications, women who had severe morbidity were significantly more likely to have had no antenatal care. Our results underline the concept that morbidity is a continuum and indicate that if the underlying causes of poor maternal health outcomes are addressed, it is likely that changes such as better access to antenatal care will improve health outcomes across the continuum of morbidity. However, by only monitoring near-miss cases and mortality, we underestimate the impact on women who will live with non-life threatening, yet serious maternal morbidities.
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