Severe maternal morbidity (SMM) occurs in 1–2% of pregnancies. Despite the knowledge that a SMM event can contribute to poor fetal/neonatal outcomes, little is known about the preventability of these adverse outcomes.

To examine adverse fetal/neonatal outcomes associated with SMM to determine if these outcomes were potentially preventable.

Materials and Methods
A New Zealand national retrospective cohort study examining cases of SMM with an adverse fetal/neonatal outcome. Maternity and initial neonatal care were explored by multidisciplinary panels utilising a preventability tool to assess whether the fetal/neonatal harm was potentially preventable. Adverse fetal/neonatal outcomes were defined as fetal or early neonatal death, Apgar score <7 at five minutes, admission to neonatal intensive care unit or special care baby unit and neonatal encephalopathy. Results Of 85 cases reviewed, adverse fetal/neonatal outcome was deemed potentially preventable in 55.3% of cases (n = 47/85). Preventability was related to maternal antenatal/peripartum care (in utero) in 39% (n = 33/85), to initial neonatal care (ex utero) in 36% (n = 29/80), and to both maternal and neonatal care in 20% (16/80) of cases. Main contributors to potential preventability were factors related to healthcare providers, particularly lack of recognition of high risk, delayed or failure to diagnose, and delayed or inappropriate treatment. Conclusions Multidisciplinary panels found that over half of adverse fetal/neonatal harm associated with SMM was potentially preventable. The novel approach of examining both maternal and neonatal care identifies opportunities to improve fetal/neonatal outcomes associated with SMM at multiple points on the perinatal continuum of care.