The global use of the International Classification of Diseases to Perinatal Mortality (ICD-PM): A systematic review

Zita D. Prüst*, Lachmi R. Kodan, Thomas van den Akker, Kitty W.M. Bloemenkamp, Marcus J. Rijken, Kim J.C. Verschueren

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background The World Health Organization launched the International Classification of Diseases for Perinatal Mortality (ICD-PM) in 2016 to uniformly report on the causes of perinatal deaths. In this systematic review, we aim to describe the global use of the ICD-PM by reporting causes of perinatal mortality and summarizing challenges and suggested amendments. Methods We systematically searched MEDLINE, Embase, Global Health, and CINAHL databases using key terms related to perinatal mortality and the classification for causes of death. We included studies that applied the ICD-PM and were published between January 2016 and June 2021. The ICD-PM data were extracted and a qualitative analysis was performed to summarize the challenges of the ICD-PM. We applied the PRISMA guidelines, registered our protocol at PROSPERO [CRD42020203466], and used the Appraisal tool for Cross-Sectional Studies (AXIS) as a framework to evaluate the quality of evidence. Results The search retrieved 6599 reports. Of these, we included 15 studies that applied the ICD-PM to 44 900 perinatal deaths. Most causes varied widely; for example, “antepartum hypoxia” was the cause of stillbirths in 0% to 46% (median = 12%, n = 95) in low-income settings, 0% to 62% (median = 6%, n = 1159) in middle-income settings and 0% to 55% (median = 5%, n = 249) in high-income settings. Five studies reported challenges and suggested amendments to the ICD-PM. The most frequently reported challenges included the high proportion of antepartum deaths of unspecified cause (five studies), the inability to determine the cause of death when the timing of death is unknown (three studies), and the challenge of assigning one cause in case of multiple contributing conditions (three studies). Conclusions The ICD-PM is increasingly being used across the globe and gives health care providers insight into the causes of perinatal death in different settings. However, there is wide variation in reported causes of perinatal death across comparable settings, which suggests that the ICD-PM is applied inconsistently. We summarized the suggested amendments and made additional recommendations to improve the use of the ICD-PM and help strengthen its consistency

Original languageEnglish
Article number04069
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalJournal of Global Health
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2022


  • Cause of Death
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Perinatal Death/etiology
  • Perinatal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Stillbirth/epidemiology


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