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Neonatal mortality rates

Babys feet in incubator

Neonatal mortality rates in the UK and globally

Almost one in every 150 babies born in the UK is stillborn or dies soon after birth (MBRRACE-UK, 2015).

A report (MBRRACE-UK, 2015) analysing data from 2013 found that there were 5,700 babies who died before, during, or shortly after birth. Of that number, 1,436 died in neonatal care. This number is relatively high compared to other countries in Europe, and there is also great variation between different regions.

According to a report published in The Lancet medical journal in 2014, the UK ranks well globally, but has the second worst neonatal mortality rate* in Western Europe, at 1.4 per 1,000 births. The only country that has a higher rate is Malta, with 2.1. The countries which have the lowest rates include Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland and Andorra (Wang et al, 2014).

Wolfe et al (2014, p.7) report that a high proportion of the neonatal deaths in the UK are due to complications caused by prematurity. Factors such as race, age of mother, and economic situation can also have an impact on mortality rate. Black, Black British and Asian British mothers have a 50 per cent higher risk, teenage mothers and mothers over 40 have a 39 per cent higher risk, and mothers living in poverty have a 57 per cent higher risk of their baby dying (MBRRACE-UK, 2015).

Furthermore, it has also been suggested that there is a link between prematurity, low birth weight and smoking during pregnancy (Agrawal et al, 2010). The UK has one of the highest rates in Europe with 26 per cent of women smoking before or during pregnancy, compared with Sweden, where 6.5 per cent of women smoke at the beginning of pregnancy.

According to the data from Wang et al (2014), the country with the highest neonatal mortality rate in the world is Mali, in Western Africa, at a rate of 42.6 per 1000 births. The other countries with high rates of neonatal mortality are all in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include Guinea-Bisseau, Chad, Lesotho, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Singapore has the lowest rate in the world, with 0.6 per 1,000 live births, closely followed by Japan.

*Neonatal mortality describes a baby that has died during the first 28 days of life.


Agrawal, Scherrer, Grant, Sartor, Pergadia, Duncan, Madden, Haber, Jacob and Bucholz. (2010). The effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy on offspring outcomes. Preventive Medicine, 50 (1) pp. 13-18. Retrieved from:

MBRRACE-UK. (2015). Perinatal mortality surveillance report. Retrieved from: 

Wang et al. (2014). Global, regional, and national levels of neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet. Retrieved from:

Wolfe, Macfarlane, Donkin, Marmot and Viner. (2014). Why children die: death in infants, children, and young people in the UK. Retrieved from:,%20Part%20A.pdf


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