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1 Million Babies Die the Day They’re Born, Save the Children Says

More U.S. babies die on birth day than in rest of industrialized world

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WESTPORT, Conn. (May 7, 2013) /PRNewswire/ — A baby’s birth day is the most dangerous day of life — in the United States and almost every country in the world — according to Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report, released today.

Yearly, more than 1 million babies die the day they are born, according to the first global analysis of newborn day-of-death data.

In addition to newborn findings, the report features Save the Children’s Mothers’ Index, released annually before Mother’s Day. It ranks Finland as the best place in the world to be a mother, and Democratic Republic of the Congo as the toughest. The United States ranks 30th best.

The Mothers’ Index rankings draw on five indicators: education, income, female political representation and the chances a mother and her baby will survive.

The 2013 State of the World’s Mothers theme is newborn health and “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 analysis by Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The United States has more first-day deaths than the rest of the industrialized world combined, largely due to higher U.S. prematurity rates. Approximately 11,300 U.S. babies died on their birth day 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. “Yet, this report is full of hope. It shows there’s a growing movement to save newborn lives and growing evidence we can do it — saving up to 75 percent of them with no intensive care whatsoever.”

Since 1990, child mortality has dropped from 12 million annual deaths to under 7 million. But the report shows newborns have benefited the least. 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 leading causes are prematurity, birth complications and severe infections. In the United States and developing countries alike, the poorest mothers are more likely to lose a newborn baby, the report finds.

The countries with the most first-day deaths annually are India (more than 300,000) and Nigeria (almost 90,000). In Somalia, which has the highest first-day death rate, babies are about 40 times more likely to die than in Singapore and Sweden, which have among the lowest.

The report finds that four products costing between 13 cents and $6 could save 1 million newborns a year — many on their first day. They are: resuscitation devices, the antiseptic chlorhexidine to prevent cord infections, injectable antibiotics and antenatal steroid injections to help preterm babies’ lungs develop.

Other factors the report says will save more newborns include: breastfeeding, “kangaroo mother care,” skilled attendance at birth, addressing the health worker crisis and investing in female empowerment.

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Learn more and take action at, where you can also watch celebrity and everyday-moms share their first moments with their babies.

Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children in need, with programs in 120 countries, including the United States. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

First Moments

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Finland: Best Place to Be a Mother
Karin Sivelä recently gave birth to her second daughter at Porvoo Hospital in the south of Finland. Sivelä says she has benefitted from the Finnish health care system. Photo by Heidi Söyrinki.
DRC: Toughest Place to Be a Mother
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tshikati Esther’s first child died of malnutrition, but she’s gone on to have 3 more with help from Save the Children programming. Photo by Jodi Bieber.
First Time Mom
Harriet, from Uganda, holds her first baby, Pius, who was not breathing when he was born. A midwife trained by Save the Children helped Pius first start to breathe. Photo by Suzanna Klaucke.
New Life
Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, holds a newborn baby in a medical facility south of New Delhi. India has more first-day deaths annually than any other country. Photo by Save the Children.

Watch celebrities Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Garner and Alyson Hannigan, as well as fashion stylist to the stars Rachel Zoe and other moms talk about their ‘First Moments’ as mothers.

Media can find related B-roll video here:

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First Moments

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Related Documents

Infographic: Surviving the First Day
State of the World’s Mothers Report Executive Summary
State of the World’s Mothers Report
Best and Toughest Places To Be a Mother

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