The U.S. is a worse place for newborns than 68 other countries, including Egypt, Turkey and Peru, according to a report released Tuesday by Save the Children.
A million babies die every year globally on the same day they were born, including more than 11,000 American newborns, the report estimates. Most of them could be saved with fairly cheap interventions, the group says.
“The birth of a child should be a time of wonder and celebration. But for millions of mothers and babies in developing countries, it is a dance with death,” the report reads. “A baby’s first day is the most dangerous day of life—in the United States and countries rich and poor,” it adds.
“The United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. An estimated 11,300 newborn babies die each year in the United States on the day they are born. This is 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.”
Globally, most babies who die at birth die because they were born too early – 35 percent of all newborns who die were pre-term, Save the Children finds. Another 23 percent die because of complications at birth, such as a failure to draw breath right away. Another 23 percent die from severe infections and 9 percent die because of birth defects.
The report is the first to dissect out specifically deaths on the first day of life.
Save the Children says it’s not precisely clear why the United States does so poorly in protecting newborns, but says politics and culture both play a role.
“Many babies in the United States are born too early. The U.S. preterm birth rate (1 in 8 births) is one of the highest in the industrialized world (second only to Cyprus). In fact, 130 countries from all across the world have lower preterm birth rates than the United States,” the report reads.
Teen births are partly to blame, the report says – echoing other research that has shown this. The U.S. has the highest teenage birth rate of any industrialized country.
“Teenage mothers in the U.S. tend to be poorer, less educated, and receive less prenatal care than older mothers. Because of these challenges, babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be low-birthweight and be born prematurely and to die in their first month. They are also more likely to suffer chronic medical conditions, do poorly in school, and give birth during their teen years (continuing the cycle of teen pregnancy),” the report says.
“Poverty, racism and stress are likely to be important contributing factors to first-day deaths in the United States and other industrialized countries.”