Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist


Teen mothers: Spike in number of teenagers giving birth

Information on fathers remain a huge challenge, with at least 60% of total births in 2021 without details of fathers.


Statistics SA recorded an increase in the number of teenage mothers in 2021, with a total of 45 257 births to mothers aged 17 years and younger.

Of these, 42 were births to mothers between the age of 11 and 12 years.

Teenage mothers in SA

The Recorded Live Births 2021 report released on Monday noted that early pregnancy and motherhood in SA create a greater risk in terms of maternal complications.

These complications resulted in low survival rates of babies and forced many girls to prematurely take on an adult role not emotionally or physically prepared for.

In 2020, a total of 33 899 births occurred to mothers aged 17 years and younger, with 499 children aged 10 and 13 years giving birth during this period.

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Where are the fathers?

The report also revealed that information about fathers remains the biggest challenge in SA.

In 2021, no reliable information on fathers could be provided due to a high proportion of births registered (more than 60%) without details of fathers.

ALSO READ: More stats needed on fathers of babies born to teenage mothers

However, the report notes that this is expected to change in the coming years.

In September 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled that this section of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act is unconstitutional.

This means unmarried fathers can now have their information registered in the birth certificate of their children at the Department of Home Affairs.

Total births

In total, 1 087 526 births were registered in South Africa in 2021.

Of these, 949 757 (87.3%) were births which occurred and were registered in 2021 (current birth registrations).

Meanwhile, 137 769 (12.7%) were births which occurred in the previous years but were only registered in 2021.

Of the total 949 757 children born in 2021, there were 498 573 males and 491 056 female births.

The negative impact of Covid-19 and national lockdown regulations – such as the closure of department of home affairs offices – resulted in a 9.2% decline in the registration within 30 days in 2020.

However, a slight increase of  4% was observed in 2021 (registration within 30 days increased from 71% in 2020 to 75%).

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Late registrations of birth after the lapse of 30 days but before the end of the year also decreased from 25% in 2020 to 20% in 2021

The Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act (Act No. 18 of 2010) stipulates that all births must be registered within 30 days from the date of occurrence.

In 2021, a proportion of 74,6 % of births that occurred complied with this amendment.

However, KwaZulu-Natal province remains the only province which performs poorly in terms of early birth registrations, with only 67.7% of births registered within 30 days of occurrence.

Provincial outlook

The highest number of total births were registered in Gauteng (254 952) followed by KwaZulu-Natal (219 290) and Limpopo (134 056).

For all the provinces, more births were registered within 0−30 days than in the 31−364 days category, although the difference was marginal for the Northern Cape province.

Gauteng had the highest number of births registered within 0−30 days at 181 470, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 148 413, whereas Northern Cape had the lowest number of births registered within 30 days at 21 787.

KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of births registered within 31−364 days (67 115) followed by Gauteng at 33 952.

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