A new report shows that when it comes to the health of first-day infants, the U.S. ranks last among industrialized nations.
The annual State of the World's Mothers report was published by Save the Children and showed that more than 11,000 babies die each year in the U.S. within the first 24 hours of entering this world. That adds to the more than 1 million infants to die within their first day of life around the globe.
But the authors of the report contend that the problem seems to be worsening, given that in last year's report, the U.S. ranked 25th and this year's report showed the country fell to 30. There are several reasons that contribute to the high first-day infant mortality rate in the U.S., with the main factors being underutilization of inexpensive medical services as well as inconsistent access to pre-natal care, the report detailed.
A newborn's riskiest day is its first one, but it doesn't have to be, according to Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles, who is advocating for women to have broader access medical care during a pregnancy and after birth.
This includes providing bag-and-mask devices to help newborns breathe, antiseptic to prevent umbilical cord infections, antibiotics to infections, and steroids to delay pre-term labor– a major cause of first-day infant death– all of which are inexpensive and readily available.
"Antibiotics are very simple and very low tech. It doesn't take a doctor to administer an antibiotic injection. It can be administered by a nurse," Miles told CBS.
Poverty and education do play a significant role, according to the authors of the study. The U.S. also has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies of any industrialized nation.
"Teenage mothers in the U.S. tend to be poorer; less educated, and receive less prenatal care than older mothers. 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.
Half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. Women whose pregnancies are accidental are much less likely to receive pre-natal care, including vaccines and vitamins that can greatly reduce the primary cause of first-day infant deaths– premature births.
"We need to make sure particularly poor mothers get access to quality prenatal care and actually go to the doctor and go to the doctor on a regular basis," Miles added.