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Background: Reasons for ethnic disparities in maternal death in the UK are unclear and may be explained by differences in social risk factors and engagement with maternity services. Methods: In this retrospective systematic case note review, we used anonymised medical records from MBRRACE-UK for all Other than White, and White European/Other women plus a random sample of White British/Irish women who died in pregnancy or up to 1 year afterwards from 01/01/2015 to 12/31/2017. We used a standardised data extraction tool developed from a scoping review to explore social risk factors and engagement with maternity services. Findings: Of 489 women identified, 219 were eligible for the study and 196 case notes were reviewed, including 103/119 from Other than White groups, 33/37 White European/Other and a random sample of 60/333 White British/Irish. The presence of three or more social risk factors was 11⋅7% (12/103) in Other than White women, 18⋅2% (6/33) for White European/Other women and 36⋅7% (22/60) in White British/Irish women. Across all groups engagement with maternity services was good with 85⋅5% (148/196) receiving the recommended number of antenatal appointments as was completion of antenatal mental health assessment (123/173, 71⋅1%). 15⋅5% (16/103) of Other than White groups had pre-existing co-morbidities and 51⋅1% (47/92) had previous pregnancy problems while women across White ethnic groups had 3⋅2% (3/93) and 33⋅3% (27/81) respectively. Three or more unscheduled healthcare attendances occurred in 60⋅0% (36/60) of White British/Irish, 39⋅4% (13/33) in White European/Other and 35⋅9% (37/103) of Other than White women. Evidence of barriers to following healthcare advice was identified for a fifth of all women. None of the 17 women who required an interpreter received appropriate provision at all key points throughout their maternity care. Interpretation: Neither increased social risk factors or barriers to engagement with maternity services appear to underlie disparities in maternal mortality. Management of complex social factors and interpreter services need improvement. Funding: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration West Midlands.

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Access to maternity services, Ethnic minorities, Interpreter services, Maternal co-morbidities, Maternal death, Risk factors