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Open Access Research article

Time-to-pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes in a South African population

Braimoh Bello12*, Danuta Kielkowski34, Dick Heederik2 and Kerry Wilson3

Author Affiliations

1 Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

2 Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Netherlands

3 Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, National Institute for Occupational Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

4 School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:565  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-565

Published: 21 September 2010



Time-to-pregnancy (TTP) has never been studied in an African setting and there are no data on the rates of adverse pregnancy outcomes in South Africa. The study objectives were to measure TTP and the rates of adverse pregnancy outcomes in South Africa, and to determine the reliability of the questionnaire tool.


The study was cross-sectional and applied systematic stratified sampling to obtain a representative sample of reproductive age women for a South African population. Data on socio-demographic, work, health and reproductive variables were collected on 1121 women using a standardized questionnaire. A small number (n = 73) of randomly selected questionnaires was repeated to determine reliability of the questionnaire. Data was described using simple summary statistics while Kappa and intra-class correlation statistics were calculated for reliability.


Of the 1121 women, 47 (4.2%) had never been pregnant. Mean gravidity was 2.3 while mean parity was 2.0 There were a total of 2467 pregnancies; most (87%) resulted in live births, 9.5% in spontaneous abortion and 2.2% in still births. The proportion of planned pregnancies was 39% and the median TTP was 6 months. The reliability of the questionnaire for TTP data was good; 63% for all participants and 97% when censored at 14 months. Overall reliability of reporting adverse pregnancy outcomes was very high, ranging from 90 - 98% for most outcomes.


This is the first comprehensive population-based reproductive health study in South Africa, to describe the biologic fertility of the population, and provides rates for planned pregnancies and adverse pregnancy outcomes. The reliability of the study questionnaire was substantial, with most outcomes within 70 - 100% reliability index. The study provides important public information for health practitioners and researchers in reproductive health. It also highlights the need for public health intervention programmes and epidemiological research on biologic fertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes in the population.