Pregnancy and death: An examination of pregnancyrelated deaths among adolescents in South Africa

Nicole De Wet


Background. South Africa (SA)’s high adolescent fertility has been extensively studied. A pregnancy outcome that has not received sufficient attention in research is the causes of death among pregnant adolescents.

Objectives. To examine levels and causes of adolescent maternal mortality in SA.

Methods. A secondary data analysis of Death Notification Forms from 2006 to 2012 was carried out. SA General Household Surveys from 2006 to 2012 were used to ascertain the number of female adolescents in the population. Frequency distributions and life table techniques were employed.

Results. An estimated 1 164 deaths have been recorded among pregnant adolescents between 2006 and 2012. Adolescent maternal and pregnancy-related mortality is lower than adult maternal and pregnancy-related mortality. The main causes of death among adolescents were hypertension (55.6% of all direct causes), abortion (17.6% of all indirect causes) and injuries (48.9% of all indirect causes). The probability of adolescents dying while pregnant without these causes is practically non-existent (range 0.002 - 0.150%).

Conclusion. Policies and programmes should prioritise these pregnancy-related causes of death in order to further reduce such deaths among adolescents in SA.

Author's affiliations

Nicole De Wet, Demography and Population Studies Programme, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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adolescents; maternal mortality; direct causes; indirect causes; probability of dying; South Africa; hypertension; abortion; injury; reproductive health

Cite this article

South African Journal of Child Health 2016;10(3):151. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.2016.v10i3.978

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-10-05
Date published: 2016-10-03

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