Nearly half of maternal deaths in SA are teenage mothers

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo is calling for a dialogue about the dangers of unprotected sex and the high proportion of maternal deaths during teenage pregnancies.

Nearly half of maternal deaths in SA are teenage mothers

Dlhomo believes the dialogue would reduce by up to half the number of mothers who die while giving birth, or shortly afterwards.

The MEC was speaking on Tuesday at GJ Crookes Hospital in Scottburgh, where he announced that by 08:00, the province had registered 36 babies born on New Year’s Day. Seventeen of them were boys, while 19 were girls.

“Significantly, teenage pregnancy accounts for about 8 – 10% of all deliveries in the country, which is about a million deliveries per year. But close to 45% of maternal deaths in the country come from this small 10% [of teenage mothers], because these young people generally delay coming to our clinics.

“They hide the pregnancy. And by the time they come to deliver, there are certain complications that cannot be reversed. Therefore, if we were to reduce or eradicate teenage pregnancy, we would significantly improve the maternal health outcomes of the province,” he said.

Thirty-year-old Bongiwe Mlotshwa’s daughter was the first New Year’s Day baby in the province, who arrived exactly on the stroke of midnight, at Eshowe Hospital.

The two youngest mothers of New Year’s Day babies are both aged 16, and they gave birth at Ekhombe and Edendale Hospitals respectively.

There were also three teenage mothers aged 18 who gave birth at Rietvlei, St Apollinaris, and Emmaus hospitals; and another three mothers aged 19, whose babies were born at Nkandla, St Apollinaris and Edendale hospitals.

Applaud the hospital

Dhlomo was pleased with GJ Crookes Hospital for having developed a programme of community dialogues to heighten awareness about protected sex.

He applauded the hospital for having not recorded a single maternal death for the past three quarters of the year.

The MEC described the hospital as a beacon of hope. He also commended the mayor of Umdoni Municipality, Thabani Dube, and his counterpart at Umzumbe Municipality, Sizwe Ngcobo, respectively, for being active members of the hospital board.

“The governance of this hospital, not only on the side of management, but also in terms of community leaders who are supporting it, is what makes it to be this strong. Recently, we had a meeting with the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi where we expressed our concern regarding the rate of maternal deaths, which are coming in mainly from district hospitals.

“Listening to the leadership of this hospital, from doctors to nurses… how much they are supported by the district specialist teams… and consultants from neighbouring hospitals, I would wish that we could take the lessons from here and cascade them to other hospitals to improve maternal and child health outcomes because that is one our main goals,” he concluded.