THE number of pregnant women who have died in the Eastern Cape has doubled since 2008, with HIV, high blood pressure and uncontrolled bleeding during pregnancy being the main causes of death.
According to the latest report, the Confidential Inquiry into Maternal Death in South Africa, 4867 maternal deaths were recorded between 2008 and 2010.
The report said the rate of maternal death was now 176.22 per 100000 – five times the millennium development goal South Africa is dedicated to meet (34/ 100000).
Between 2008 and 2010, the report said, 14% of the country’s maternal deaths were recorded in the Eastern Cape.
Since 1998, 25% of South African mothers who died, did so in this province.
"The number of maternal deaths reported continues to increase.
"This is due to an increase in the number of cases reported and also in the number of women dying,” the report states.
"Every woman who becomes pregnant and continues with her pregnancy does so in the expectation of delivering a healthy child and the joy and satisfaction of watching the child grow.
"Surely, it is the duty of society and the health care profession to do the utmost to fulfil this expectation,” the inquiry’s secretariat said.
In the Eastern Cape, 40% of these deaths were caused by non-pregnancy-related infections, mainly deaths in HIV-infected pregnant women who suffered complications due to tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Uncontrolled bleeding during birth and hypertension account for 28% of deaths.
Maternal deaths due to obstetric haemorrhage and hypertension were thought to be mostly preventable, the report stated.
Analysis of death statistics at the country’s hospitals further found that most women who died of uncontrolled bleeding died during or after caesarean section.
This accounted for 26.2% of deaths due to obstetric haemorrhage.
Pregnancy-related sepsis was the third most common cause of death in all other provinces.
Seventy percent of women who died in pregnancy, childbirth or shortly afterwards were HIV-positive.
The report said prolonged labour played a significant part in deaths of women, as did failed attempts to resuscitate and complications with anaesthetics.
The report explained that the impact of the HIV pandemic in South Africa was clear when the maternal death rate was compared with other countries that have a lower HIV infection rate.
South Africa still has a significantly higher maternal death rate than similar countries like Argentina (49/100000), Brazil (55/ 100000), China (40/100000), Russia (34/100000) and Thailand (47/100000).