Why Are So Many Newborns Dying in the US?

The United States does not fare well in a new report looking at the percentage of babies that die the day they are born.

In that report, the United States falls behind 68 other countries, including Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, in terms of its rate of deaths on the first day of life. Yearly, about 11,300 U.S. babies die the day they're born, according to the report from the charity organization Save the Children.

So why are newborn deaths in the United States so high?

The nation's high preterm birth rate plays a role. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the industrialized world (1 in 8 births) — twice that of Finland, Japan, Norway and Sweden. Complications from preterm birth are the cause of 35 percent of newborn deaths in the U.S., Save the Children says.

Babies born preterm, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are at risk of death from loss of body heat, inability to take enough nutrition, breathing difficulties and infections, the report said.

Another factor, which contributes to the preterm birth rate, is the country's high rate of teen birth.

"Teenage mothers in the U.S. tend to be poorer, less educated, and receive less prenatal care than older mothers," which in turn, increases the baby's risk of being born early and dying in the first month, the report says.

But teen births have decreased in recent years, and the United States still has the highest preterm birth rate of any industrialized country, Save the Children says.

Women need access to proper prenatal care, in part to understand their risk of preterm birth and other pregnancy complications, said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. Poverty can prevent women from getting the care they need, she said.

The Save the Children report did not include stillbirths. It's possible that, in trying to reduce the rate of stillbirth, the United States has increased preterm birth rate, said Dr. Joy Lawn, senior health adviser to Save the Children.

For instance, doctors in the United States may detect a pregnancy problem early on, and intervene to allow the baby to be born alive early, only to have the baby die on the first day of life, whereas the same baby may have been stillborn in another country, Lawn said.

However, Lawn said that other industrialized countries are performing the same types of obstetric interventions that are done in the U.S., so this would not necessarily explain the ranking of the U.S. in relation to industrialized countries.

Pass it on: The high rate of preterm birth in the United States plays a role in its relatively high rate of newborn death.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily @MyHealth_MHND, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on MyHealthNewsDaily.

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