Maternal mortality in South Africa: An update from the 2007 Community Survey

Michel Garenne, Robert McCaa, Kourtoum Nacro

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The 2007 Community Survey conducted in South Africa included questions on maternal deaths in the previous 12 months (pregnancy-related deaths). The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) was estimated at 702 per 100,000 live births, some 30% more than at the 2001 census. This high level occurred despite a low proportion of maternal deaths (4.3%) among deaths of women aged 15-49 years, which is even lower than the proportion of time spent in the maternal risk period (7.6%). The high level of MMR was due to the astonishingly high level of adult mortality, which increased by 46% since 2001. The main reasons for these excessive levels were HIV/AIDS and external causes of death (accidents and violence). Differentials in MMR were very marked, and similar to those found in 2001 with respect to urban residence, race, province, education, income, and wealth. Provincial levels of MMR correlated primarily with HIV/AIDS prevalence. Maternal mortality defined as 'pregnancy-related death' appears no longer as a proper indicator of 'safe motherhood' in this situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-101
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Population Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Case definition
  • Census
  • Maternal mortality
  • Pregnancy-related deaths
  • Socio-economic correlate
  • South Africa


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