- Community verbal autopsies are recommended in Maternal Death Surveillance and Response systems. Potentially they can inform action to prevent further deaths by improving our understanding of: The circumstances surrounding deaths occurring in the community; individual and community-level factors contributing to delays for those deaths occurring at facilities; and family perspectives of treatment received at facilities. However, undertaking verbal autopsies at scale may not always be feasible.
- Maternal deaths are rare events and, particularly in settings that are experiencing rapid increases in institutional delivery rates, are increasingly occurring in facilities.
- Community verbal autopsies entail a high training cost, with large numbers of community health workers each covering relatively small geographical areas. Their low skill, high turnover and infrequency of conducting verbal autopsies generate poor quality information and limited new insights. The collection of data with limited use at a sensitive time also raises ethical concerns.
- In low resource settings, other strategies could be considered to achieve the primary purposes of maternal death surveillance and response, for example strengthening community based vital registration systems for better notification of deaths; strengthening facility-based maternal death reviews with a focus on the community delays contributing to facility-based deaths; and intermittent qualitative research by skilled researchers.