Perinatal deaths have declined by nearly 7% from 2014 to 2015 in South Africa.
Statistician General Pali Lehohla on Monday said perinatal deaths stood at 21 378 in 2015, down from 22 948 in 2014. This represents a decline of 6.8%, a figure Lehohla said can be reduced further by effective and efficient care during pregnancy.
The 2015 perinatal deaths report, which Lehohla release at the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) headquarters in Hatfield, Tshwane, is based on deaths collected through the civil registration system, maintained by the Department of Home Affairs.
It focuses on the total number of registered stillbirths and infant deaths occurring during the first week of life.
The report shows that perinatal deaths in South Africa are characterised by higher stillbirths, compared to early neonatal deaths.
“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%),” said Lehohla.
Higher proportions of stillbirths, early neonatal deaths and perinatal deaths occurred in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the least occurred in the Northern Cape. This is also in line with the population distribution in the country, with the majority of the population living in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and the smallest share of the population based in the Northern Cape.
Lehohla said other differentials indicate that black Africans comprised the majority of 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, foetuses and newborns affected by maternal factors and by complications of pregnancy, labour and delivery were the leading underlying natural cause of perinatal deaths in all the provinces except Gauteng, where the leading underlying natural cause of death was respiratory cardiovascular disorder specific to the perinatal period.
Foetuses and newborns affected by maternal factors and by complications of pregnancy, labour and delivery were also the leading cause of death for both males and females in 2015.
Lehohla said the top 10 leading underlying natural causes of perinatal deaths remained the same in 2015 compared to 2013 and 2014, with nine of the 10 leading natural underlying causes of death maintaining their ranking, although proportions differed slightly from year to year.
“Changes were more obvious with disorders related to length of gestation and fatal 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 eight.
“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 newborns survive the critical first seven days of life,” said Lehohla.