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Journal Article

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South African Medical Journal





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Background. In Botswana the maternal mortality ratio in 2010 was 163 per 100 000 live births. It is a priority to reduce this ratio to meet Millennium Development Goal 5 target of 21 per 100 000 live births.

Objective. To investigate the underlying circumstances of maternal deaths in Botswana.

Method. Fifty-six case notes from the 80 reported maternal deaths in 2010 were reviewed. Five clinicians reviewed each case independently and then together to achieve a consensus on diagnosis and underlying cause(s) of death.

Results. Sixty-six percent of deaths occurred in Botswana’s two referral hospitals. Cases in which death had direct obstetric causes were fewer than cases in which cause of death was indirect. The main direct causes were haemorrhage (39%), hypertension (22%), and pregnancy-related sepsis (13%). Thirty-six (64%) deaths were in HIV-positive women, of whom 21 (58%) were receiving antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. Nineteen (34%) deaths were attributable to HIV, including 4 from complications of ARVs. Twenty-nine (52%) deaths were in the postnatal period, 19 (66%) of these in the first week. Case-note review revealed several opportunities for improved quality of care: better teamwork, communication and supportive supervision of health professionals; earlier recognition of the seriousness of complication(s) with more aggressive case-management; joint management between HIV and obstetric clinicians; screening for, and treatment of, opportunistic infections throughout the antenatal to postnatal periods; and better supply management of medications, fluids, blood for transfusion and laboratory tests.

Conclusion. Integrating HIV management into maternal healthcare is essential to reduce maternal deaths in the region, alongside greater efforts to improve quality of care to avoid direct and indirect causes of death.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Work published in the journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial 3.0 Unported Works License (CC BY-NC 3.0).


maternal mortality, HIV, case-record review



Date Posted: 29 July 2014

This document has been peer reviewed.