Maternal risk during pregnancy: a concept analysis: LR Van Otterloo and CD Connelly

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Aims and objectives

To report an analysis of the concept of maternal risk and explore implications for practice using Walker and Avant's eight step method analysis.


Although mortality during pregnancy is a relatively rare occurrence, serious maternal morbidities are increasingly present in today's pregnant population. Risk factors have been identified that increase the potential for morbidities and subsequent care modalities have been implemented to decrease this risk. However, despite the wide use of the term ‘risk’ in the medical and nursing literature, determining a common definition is difficult. Differences in the understanding of risk during pregnancy can hinder the ability to provide consistent and appropriate care.


Concept analysis.


A search of the English literature was completed using the databases CINAHL, PubMed, Medline, and Google Scholar for years 2000–2014 using the keywords ‘risk’, ‘maternal’ and ‘pregnancy’.


Three defining attributes of risk were identified: chance of injury/loss, cognitive recognition and the decision-making processes. The antecedent of risk is the ability to understand the situation and cognitive ability to think about the potential consequences and adverse outcomes. Consequences of risk include the actual action taken as a result of the decision-making process.


This paper contributes to the understanding of risk allowing for the development of an individualised plan of care for each pregnant woman and empowering the nurse to advocate for appropriate care. Findings in this analysis assist nurses in bridging the gap in communication between the provider's and pregnant woman's interpretation of risk.

Relevance to clinical practice

The analysis of risk resulted in the identification of differences in perceptions of risk that can potentially result in miscommunication between provider and pregnant woman and increase the risk of inadequate or incomplete care.

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