Mother's day: A time to remember

Every year, about 1 million babies die on the day they are born 

Almost 3 million die within the first month of life

6.9 million children die before turning five

And every year 287 000 mothers die during pregrancy or childbirth

Most deaths are preventable and treatable.

65% of newborn deaths (in the first month) occur in just 10 countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Tanzania.  These mothers often deliver their babies with no trained assistance's, no equipment or simply on their own at home. If something goes wrong, there is no one to help either the mother or baby and many die.  Improvements to health systems, better trained health workers, more health workers on the front line and basic equipment would make such a differences.

The major causes of newborn deaths are preterm birth (35%), infection (25%), asphyxia (23%) and 17% other causes.  This could be reduced considerably if hospitals and midwives had access to some basic products including corticosteroids (assists babies born too soon with undeveloped lungs), antibiotics (for infection), resuscitation equipment (to help babies with their first breaths) and chlorhexidine (clean cord care).  These are all in-expensive and make such a huge differences on day one of a baby's life.

But whilst this sounds tragic it is important to put it into perspective. We have come a long way.  Globally, since 1970, the number of children dying has declined by more than half. In some countries the change has been even more remarkable - in Rwanda, 1 in 5 children died before turning 5, now it is 1 in 20.

And whilst we still loose 6.9 million children under the age of 5 . . .  that figure was 12 million not that long ago.

This safest places to have a baby is Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark . . . Australia is ranked 10th.  Sadly, the USA has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world with an estimated 11,300 newborn babies dying each year in the USA on the day they are born. In the USA it is likely to be those in racial/ethnic minorities and those that are poor and don't have easy access to health care.

According to Save the Children, there are three ways to help mothers and babies and reduce the rate of infant death:

1. Education of girls - keeping girls at school longer reduces the number of girls marrying very young and having children when their bodies are not developed enough. Girls who are better educated tend to be healthier and more economically empowered which gives themselves and their children a better start in life.

2. Nutrition - if girls eat well, their babies will be healthier and so will they. Healthly mums and bubs reduce preterm babies and low-weight babies.

3. Family planning - this allows mothers to avoid pregnancies when they are too young or too old and allows them to space their children which is better for their overal health (and for their babies). Having smaller families in developing nations allows those children to have greater access to food, shelter, education etc..

Whilst we celebrate Mother's Day in Australia, please remember all the women who suffer the loss of their baby, the struggle of giving birth in very poor conditions and the fight to keep their babies alive once born.  We are very fortunate to live in a nation where the first day of life is not the struggle it is in other nations. Women may have come along way in many aspects of society . . . but much more needs to be done for women in the developing world. Their lives, their babies and the lives of their daughters are very tough. 

Every day 19,000 mothers mothers mourn the death of their baby . . . let us remember these women.

We are very truly blessed.

All data and information is sourced from the Save the Children report


  1. Rather than medicine, I think the thing that is most needed is education. Education about prenatal nutrition and care. Education about birth hygiene. Education about postnatal care. Education about nutrition while mothers are breastfeeding. Knowledge really does empower people and does MUCH more for people than medicine. :)
    Those numbers are very sad... And make abortion seem so much worse in the face of such sadness.

    1. I agree and so does the report - education is critical. However medicines such as antibotics are just as important to these women as it is to us and a quick response to infection makes all the differences. Save the children aren't talking about anything complicated, most of what they recommend is basic and cheap, including any medical intevention.

  2. The figures are tragic and even more so when you think of all the aborted babies dying as well.
    (I think you meant developing or under-developed in a couple of places where you have developed?)
    While many Aussie women have straight forward pregnancies and labours, as one with many complications, I am very thankful for all the progress in modern medicine which enabled me to carry and raise healthy children.
    Happy Mums' Day, Jo!

    1. Thanks Ruby, I think I have fixed those errors.

      These are very sad figures but its really positive that things are improving and more mothers and babies are being saved. However war and conflict makes things far worse for women and their children and some of those nations doing much better only need conflict to go backwards again.


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