Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SA’s perinatal mortality rate fell to its lowest level in more than a decade in 2015 as more women gained access to HIV treatment, statistician-general Pali Lehohla says.

"In many ways it’s an indicator of improvement in the health system," he said on Monday.

The changes in SA’s perinatal mortality rate over time bore the "stamp" of SA’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, said Lehohla.

The perinatal mortality rate was highest in the early 2000s, when there was little or no treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women, and fell as treatment became more readily available, he said.

Perinatal deaths include stillborn babies and those who die within a week after they are born.

Stats SA’s latest perinatal report, published on its website, shows the perinatal mortality rate was 17.4 per 1,000 births in 2015, a 6.9% decline on the 2014 figure of 18.7 deaths per 1,000 births. In 2004, there were 21.4 perinatal deaths per 1,000 births.

There were a total of 21,378 perinatal deaths in 2015, of which 13,702 (64%) were stillborn and 7,676 (36%) were early neonatal deaths.

The stillbirth rate in 2015 was 11.2 deaths per 1,000 total births, and the early neonatal death rate was 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, the report says.

While SA’s figures show some signs of improvement, they remain high by international standards.

For example, the stillbirth rate in the UK in 2015 was 3.87 per 1,000 total births, and its early neonatal death rate was 1.74 deaths per 1,000 live births.

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