1 Million Babies Die the Day They’re Born, Study Finds

A study conducted by the international organization Save the Children has found that more than 1 million children around the world die the same day they are born, with the U.S. having the highest number of birth-day deaths in the industrialized world.

The 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report focuses in on newborn health and the theme “Surviving the First Day.” A new Birth Day Risk Index ranks 186 countries by the chances a baby will die on the first day of life.

The United States is a riskier place to be born than 68 other countries, according to the new analysis conducted by Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

In the industrialized world, the United States has 60 percent of all first-day deaths, but only 38 percent of live births.  Approximately 11,300 U.S. babies died on the first day of life in 2011, the report says.  Some U.S. counties have first-day death rates common in the developing world, where 98 percent of all first-day deaths occur.

“It’s hard to imagine the depth of one mother’s pain in losing her baby the very day she gives birth, let alone a million times over,”  said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children in a statement.  “Yet, this report is full of hope.  It shows there is a growing movement to save newborn lives and growing evidence that we can do it—saving up to 75 percent of them with no intensive care whatsoever.”

Since 1990, overall child mortality has dropped dramatically around the world, from 12 million annual deaths to less than 7 million.  But the report shows that lack of global attention on newborns has translated into a much slower decline in newborn mortality.   In sub-Saharan Africa, as many newborns die now as two decades ago.

Globally, a rising share of child deaths—43 percent—now occur in the newborn period, or first month of life.  The new report finds that more than a third of newborn deaths, or 15 percent of all child deaths, occur on the same day—the first.

The three leading causes of newborn death are prematurity, birth complications and severe infections.  Among wealthier countries, higher U.S. rates of prematurity contribute to higher newborn mortality.  Whether in the United States or the developing world, the poorest mothers are more likely to lose a newborn baby, the report finds.

Image: Sad doctor, via Shutterstock

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