The causes of perinatal mortality in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Cent Afr J Med. 1992 Jul;38(7):263-81.


The causes of all perinatal deaths at Mpilo Maternity Hospital were investigated over a 12-month period, during which there were a total of 466 stillbirths and 379 neonatal deaths, with a perinatal mortality rate of 36.0/1000 births in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The causes of death were in order of importance; congenital syphilis (20.5 pc), birth asphyxia (18.8 pc), unexplained stillbirths (11.8 pc), hyaline membrane disease (11.5 pc) neonatal septicaemia (10.8 pc), congenital malformations (7.7 pc), pregnancy induced hypertension (5.4 pc), placental abruption (4.9 pc), congenital infection (2.2 pc) and other causes (6.4 pc). Eleven pc of mothers booking in antenatal clinics had positive syphilis serology. Most were successfully treated. But over 400 mothers with early syphilis escaped treatment usually because they booked late or failed to book at all at antenatal clinics (74 pc) and occasionally because they had false negative results or were infected after early booking (27 pc). They delivered 101 stillbirths, most of whom died prematurely before labour and often had abdominal distension. There were 72 neonatal deaths, most of whom were preterm babies with respiratory distress and often hepatosplenomegaly. One half of the deaths from asphyxia were caused by prolonged obstructed labour and one quarter by prolapsed cord, stuck head in breech delivery and retained second twin. The incidence of both early and late onset neonatal septicaemia was very high with Group B Streptococci, Kliebsiella and Staphylococcus aureus the predominant pathogens. Improved antenatal, intrapartum and neonatal care could substantially reduce the perinatal mortality rate by preventing congenital syphilis and birth asphyxia and by treating hyaline membrane disease and neonatal septicaemia.

MeSH terms

  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / etiology
  • Birth Weight
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology*
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Care
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • Syphilis, Congenital / complications
  • Zimbabwe / epidemiology