Sepsis is a life‐threatening systemic condition that appears to be increasing in the obstetric population. Clinical detection can be difficult and may result in increased morbidity via delays in the continuum of patient care.

To describe the burden of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) caused by sepsis in New Zealand and investigate the potential preventability.

A multidisciplinary expert review panel was established to review cases of obstetric sepsis admitted to intensive care or high‐dependency units over an 18 month span in New Zealand. Cases were then analysed for the characteristics of infection and their preventability.

Fifty cases met the inclusion criteria, most commonly due to uterine, respiratory or kidney infection. Fifty per cent (25) of these cases were deemed potentially preventable, predominantly due to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

A high index of suspicion, development of early recognition systems and multi‐disciplinary training are recommended to decrease preventable cases of maternal sepsis.