oa South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology - Intrapartum-related birth asphyxia in South Africa - lessons from the first national perinatal care survey

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0038-2329
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



<i>Background</i>. The recent amalgamation of data by users of the Perinatal Problem Identification Programme (PPIP) throughout South Africa has culminated in the publication of the Saving Babies report. <br><i>Objectives</i>. To determine the absolute rate of death from intrapartum-related birth asphyxia, and the contribution of intrapartum-related asphyxia to total perinatal mortality in South African hospitals, and to identify the primary obstetric causes and avoidable factors for these deaths. <br><i>Methods</i>. The amalgamated PPIP data for the year 2000 were obtained from 27 state hospitals (6 metropolitan, 12 town and 9 rural) in South Africa. In PPIP-based audit, all perinatal deaths are assigned primary obstetric causes and avoidable factors, and these elements were obtained for all deaths resulting from intrapartum-related birth asphyxia. <br><i>Results</i>. There were 123 508 births in the hospitals surveyed, with 4 142 perinatal deaths among infants &#8805 1 000 g, giving a perinatal mortality rate of 33.5 / 1 000 births. The perinatal mortality rate from intrapartum-related birth asphyxia was 4.8 / 1 000 births. The most frequent avoidable factors were delay by mothers in seeking attention during labour (36.6%), signs of fetal distress interpreted incorrectly (24.9%), inadequate fetal monitoring (18.0%) and no response to poor progress in labour (7.0%). The perinatal mortality rates for metropolitan, town and rural areas were 30.0, 39.4 and 30.9 / 1 000 births respectively. The contribution of intrapartum-related birth asphyxia to perinatal mortality in these areas was 10.8%, 16.7% and 26.4% respectively. <br><i>Conclusion</i>. The high rates of perinatal death from intrapartum-related birth asphyxia in South Africa are typical of those in underdeveloped countries, with the most serious deficiencies in rural areas. Most of these deaths are avoidable and the reduction of these rates presents an important challenge to providers of perinatal care in this country. Areas worthy of research and action include provision of mothers' waiting facilities in rural regions, improvements in fetal monitoring, partogram-based labour management, and the establishment of midwifery staffing norms for South African labour units.

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