31 July 2017

Africa: Statistics South Africa Releases Report On Perinatal Deaths in South Africa

press release

Perinatal deaths in South Africa, 2015 report

The Perinatal deaths 2015 report released by Statistics South Africa today reflects that the total number of perinatal deaths that occurred in 2015 was 21 378, which is a decline of 6,8% from the 22 948 perinatal deaths that occurred in 2014.The report is based on deaths collected through the civil registration system maintained by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). It focuses on the aggregate number of registered stillbirths and infant deaths occurring during the first week of life. Almost two-thirds of the 21 378 perinatal deaths in 2015 were stillbirths (64,1%) and the remaining third were early neonatal deaths (35,9%).

Higher proportions of stillbirths, early neonatal deaths and perinatal deaths occurred in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the least occurred in Northern Cape, which is in line with the population distribution in the country. Other differentials indicate that black Africans comprised the majority (over 75%) of all death types (stillbirths, early neonatal deaths and perinatal deaths), which is also similar to the population distribution in the country. Nearly 70% of perinatal deaths took place in a health facility. The general pattern shows that most perinatal deaths occurred during the months of March and May.

According to the report, in 2015, foetus and newborn affected by maternal factors and by complications of pregnancy, labour and delivery was the leading underlying natural cause of perinatal deaths in all the provinces except Gauteng, where the leading underlying natural cause of death was respiratory and cardiovascular disorders specific to the perinatal period. foetus and new newborn affected by maternal factors and by complications of pregnancy, labour and delivery was also the leading cause of death for both males and females in 2015. The top ten leading underlying natural causes of death for perinatal deaths remained the same in 2015 compared to 2013 and 2014, with nine of the ten leading natural underlying causes of death maintaining their rankings, although proportions differed slightly from year to year. Changes were more obvious with disorders related to length of gestation and fetal growth, which declined from 8,4% in 2013 to 7,6% in 2014 and in 2015 was 7,3%. In terms of rankings, congenital malformations of the nervous system was the only cause that reflected changes. In 2013 and 2015 congenital malformations of the nervous system was the seventh cause of death but in 2014 it was ranked eighth.

The results show that perinatal deaths in South Africa are characterised by higher stillbirths as compared to early neonatal deaths. The underlying causes for both stillbirths and early neonatal deaths show that mortality during the perinatal period can be reduced by effective and efficient care during pregnancy and special efforts such as warmth and hygiene to ensure that new-borns survive the critical first seven days of life. 'Health care for all by 2030' is one of the key developmental objectives outlined in the National Development Plan adopted by the South African government. The plan asserts that reductions in infant and child mortality are important in the drive towards leaving no one behind in health. Accordingly the review of perinatal mortality, which is a subset of infant mortality, allows for the evaluation of the provision of timely and good-quality health care services to pregnant women and infants in South Africa.

The full report is available on the Statistics South Africa website: www.statssa.gov.za

Issued by: Statistics South Africa

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