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UK behind in pregnancy stakes

The UK has failed to make the top 20 in a list of the best places to be a mother - falling behind its neighbours Ireland and other European countries such as Germany and France.

In a list of 176 countries in the Mother’s Index, contained in Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report, the UK is ranked at number 23.

Finland, Sweden and Norway take the top three slots respectively while for the first time, countries in sub-Saharan Africa - where 10% to 20% of mothers are underweight due to poor nutrition or under-age pregnancy - take up each of the bottom ten places in the annual index.

Ireland has been ranked at number 20, while the US is at number 30, Germany is at number 9 and France is at number 16.

The report found the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be the world’s toughest place to be a mother.

The Mother’s Index looks at countries around the world that are succeeding and failing in saving the lives of mothers and new-born babies.

It assesses mothers’ well-being using indicators of maternal health, under-five mortality, levels of women’s education, income, and political status.

Coming in at number 23, the UK has fewer women in Parliament and higher maternal and infant mortality rates than much of Europe, the charity said.

Women in the UK are at a higher risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth than women in Slovakia, Montenegro and Lithuania, according to the statistics.

The report says a reason for this is the age women are having babies, with teenage and IVF pregnancy rates resulting in the UK having a higher proportion of young and old mothers than much of Europe.

Another reason is poverty and inequality, as women with partners who are unemployed are six times more likely to die from maternal causes than those with partners in work.

The charity said one million babies die each year on the day they are born - or two every minute - making the first day by far the riskiest day of a person’s life in almost every country in the world.

A baby in the developing world is seven times as likely to die on its first day than a baby born in industrialised nations.

A newborn in Somalia - the most risky country to be born - is 40 times more likely to die on its first day than a child born in Luxembourg, which is the safest, according to the statistics.

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said: “Overall the world has made unprecedented progress in reducing child and maternal deaths.

“But within this progress there are two big challenges: newborns and malnutrition. We can end child and maternal mortality in our generation - by using tried and tested interventions to stop mothers and babies being lost from what should be simple preventable causes.

“The G8 in June chaired by the Prime Minister has a critical opportunity to tackle hunger which accounts for a third of child deaths. He must make sure we seize this opportunity.”

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