Neonatal mortality in the UK

Baby's tiny foot being held by a parent's thumb and index fingers

Sadly, some babies who are born needing care do not survive. This is devastating for families, and can be one of the hardest times they will ever face.

Overall, neonatal mortality rates have declined since the 1980s. This means that generally fewer babies per 1000 births are dying each year.

Every parent will have an individual experience with the birth of their baby, but the risk of a baby dying in the UK is influenced by poverty, ethnicity and the age of the mother.

Rates of stillbirth and neonatal mortality have reduced over time, but data from 2020 shows that neonatal mortality rates increase with deprivation across all ethnic groups. The lowest mortality rates were seen for White babies from the least deprived areas. The highest neonatal death rates were for babies of Pakistani and Black African ethnicity from the most deprived areas.

Many more babies of Black African, Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity are born to mothers living in more deprived areas. As such, these babies are disproportionately experiencing these outcomes as the level of deprivation increases. Only 5-6% of babies with these ethnicities were born to mothers living in less deprived areas. In comparison, 22% of White babies were born in the least deprived areas.

A multiple pregnancy is also associated with an increased risk of neonatal death. Between 2016 and 2020 the neonatal death rate increased 16% for twin pregnancies. The neonatal mortality rate for twins is 3.5 times higher than for singletons.

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What are the survival rates for babies born premature?

How early a baby is born has an effect on their chance of survival, and a high proportion of neonatal deaths in the UK are due to complications caused by prematurity.

It is important to remember that every baby has a unique set of circumstances, and just because a baby is born extremely prematurely does not mean they won't survive. This should be taken into consideration when reading these survival statistics.

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The information on this page was last updated on 9 April 2024.