Trends in maternal mortality in Cape Town, 1953-1977.S Afr Med J. 1979 Sep 29; 56(14):547-52.SA
In the period 1953 - 1977 there were 223 maternal deaths among 291 800 patients delivered in hospitals under the aegis of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the University of Cape Town. A sudden decrease in the maternal mortality rate to below 100/100,000 deliveries occurred in 1956, largely due to the greater use of the obstetric 'flying squad'. Since 1975 maternal mortality rates have been available for the various ethnic groups. For the period 1975 - 1977 the rates were 69/100,000 for Blacks, 40/100,000 for Coloureds and 27/100000 for Whites. Of the deaths, 48% occurred in women aged 21 - 30 years and 29% in those aged 35 years or more. While 28% of deaths were associated with the first pregnancy, grand multiparity (parity 5 or more) accounted for 39%. Nearly half of the patients who died were unbooked. The 7 commonest causes (grouped) of maternal deaths (obstetric as well as non-obstetric) were, in rank order: proteinuric hypertension, haemorrhage, cardiac disease, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, trauma and anaesthetic complications. Proteinuric hypertension is the most important obstetric problem in Cape Town, in terms of numbers of patients, maternal and perinatal deaths, and socio-economic implications for the community. Slightly more than 33% of the infants whose mothers died also succumbed. Major avoidable factors associated with maternal deaths were booking status, grand multiparity, cardiac disease and late or incorrect use of the 'flying squad'.