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Why are moms in America lagging?

Posted by on May. 12, 2013 at 11:20 PM
  • 25 Replies

Why are moms in America lagging?

By Carolyn Miles, Special to CNN
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Sat May 11, 2013

In Save the Children's annual index on the State of the World's Mothers, the U.S. fell from 25 to 30 this year, says Carolyn Miles

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carolyn Miles: State of world's mothers best in places like Scandinavia, Singapore
  • She says U.S. is 30th in Save the Children's annual index, below Canada, Belarus, Poland
  • Factors causing rating: death in childbirth, infant mortality, lagging political power, she says
  • Miles: Congress, create National Commission on Children to address poverty for moms, kids

Editor's note: Carolyn Miles is President and CEO of Save the Children

(CNN) -- The State of the World's Mothers is ... strong. In Finland, that is. Or anywhere in Scandinavia. And most of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. They all place in the top 20 of Save the Children's annual Mothers' Index.

But motherhood in sub-Saharan Africa is a very tough proposition. The region has all 10 of the most difficult places for mothers in this year's ranking, with conflict-plagued Democratic Republic of the Congo last on the list. Among the bottom 20, only Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Yemen are in other regions of the world.

And the United States? We come in 30th on the Mothers' Index. We may be 10th in per capita income and the number of years a mom can expect her child to attend school. But the good news ends there. We are just above Japan and South Korea overall, but below Belarus, Canada, Israel and Poland.

This year's report on the State of the World's Mothers shows that we need to do better by moms in many parts of the world, including right here at home.

Two factors holding the United States back are indicators we've found to best represent the health and well-being of mothers and children -- their chances for survival.

When it comes to a woman's lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, we do better than only five other developed countries: Albania, Latvia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. American women are 10 times more likely to die eventually from pregnancy-related causes than women in Estonia, Greece or Singapore.

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Our child mortality rate, meanwhile, is on par with those in Qatar and Slovakia. Moms here are also three times as likely to lose a child by age 5 as moms in Iceland.

After 14 years of assessing the state of the world's mothers, Save the Children finds child mortality an indicator not only of children's health and nutrition, but of the quality of care that mothers receive before, during and after pregnancy.

This year's report delved deeper into the dangers posed to children on what turns out to be the riskiest day of life -- the first. In the United States, 11,300 babies a year die on the day they are born. That's more than in the rest of the industrialized world combined.

What can be done to save babies here is not as clear as in many parts of the world. Globally, more than 1 million babies die the day they are born. But we also know that up to 75 percent of the 3 million newborns who die in the first month of life could be saved if trained health workers -- not necessarily doctors -- could deliver very basic interventions.

An antiseptic costing 25 cents could prevent deadly infections starting in the umbilical cord. Basic resuscitation devices costing $6 and less could save 229,000 babies a year. "Kangaroo Mother Care" could save nearly a half-million premature babies through the warmth of their own mothers' skin, no incubators necessary.

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But in the United States, every baby can easily have access to far more sophisticated care at birth. So why are babies still dying and what can we do for them and their moms? Some of the reasons are congenital and difficult to address anywhere. Another reason is our high rates of premature birth. One in eight babies is born too soon here.

We can't fully explain this, although we know that the age of the mother and health issues like obesity play a role, as do high rates of elective cesarean sections. What we do know is that poor women are more likely to lose their babies, and that African-Americans suffer the highest rates of loss.

We need more research in this area and more action for America's poorest children in general. Save the Children is calling on Congress to create a National Commission on Children to address the critical issues facing the 22 percent of American children born into poverty. Those issues include boosting their chances of surviving the very first day. American mothers deserve this action.

There's one other important indicator on our Mother's Index: political status. Countries that outperform their economic peers on maternal and child health tend to do very well on the political status of women. If we look back to 2000, the year of our first Mothers' Index, Rwanda had a very high rate of female representation in government.

Since then it has made some of the greatest regional gains in helping its mothers and children survive. The Scandinavian countries also have long had high proportions of women in parliament, and they have some of the world's most supportive policies around motherhood, and some of the best outcomes for mothers and their children.

It makes sense that when women are in political power, children in that country do better. They know firsthand what mothers and children need to succeed. Today, women hold 19 percent of seats in the U.S. Congress -- the highest percentage in our nation's history. But still, about half the countries in the world do better than that.

The United States remains the only developed country with no guarantee of paid maternity leave and is lagging behind on how much women earn compared with men. We need more women -- and men -- in leadership positions to focus on what will make a difference for American mothers and children to get our country out of 30th place.

Nerdy White Person

by on May. 12, 2013 at 11:20 PM
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Replies (1-10):
LauraKW
by "Dude!" on May. 12, 2013 at 11:28 PM
1 mom liked this
Lots of points to ponder there. Good article.
muslimahpj
by Ruby Member on May. 13, 2013 at 1:20 AM
5 moms liked this

But, but, but, we are the best  at EVERYTHING!

Great article. 

Momniscient
by Ruby Member on May. 13, 2013 at 1:24 AM
1 mom liked this
Good article. It's interesting how there is not a war on women according to some but statistically women and children took a pretty significant hit in the US...
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Retrokitty
by Member on May. 13, 2013 at 1:27 AM
2 moms liked this
I live in Canada but I see a lot of these problems everyday on CM. birth is way too much of a medical procedure in America. Midwifes should be IMO the main people helping woman have babies. I don't think that means giving birth in homes just that it should be seperated.
Also maternity leave in the states isn't helping anyone.
Healthystart30
by Silver Member on May. 13, 2013 at 2:08 AM
2 moms liked this
We need better access to good healthcare, maternity leave and a better support system for mothers.
American mothers are not worse mothers than mothers in other countries, but I just get the feeling that its easier to blame the mother then the system which is obviously flawed and doesn't give mothers a chance! Oh it's the single mothers, poor mothers, uneducated mothers, lazy mothers..... This article is spot on! We need to stop putting businesses over people! I'm pretty sure that's the biggest difference between the US and Scandinavia for example.
NWP
by guerrilla girl on May. 13, 2013 at 7:18 AM
Bump
lizzielouaf
by Gold Member on May. 13, 2013 at 7:21 AM
2 moms liked this
I'm a gamer so my first instinct was to tell you to reset your router to fix the lag.
quickbooksworm
by Silver Member on May. 13, 2013 at 7:30 AM
I'm American and I agree. The problem is that the medical community has bred paranoia about pregnancy and childbirth for a long time. Most women on here think its unsafe and irresponsible to have your baby anywhere besides a hospital next door to an OR. Forget that birth with midwives is statistically safer with fewer risky and invasive medical interventions, we are taught in this country that childbirth is very dangerous.


Quoting Retrokitty:

I live in Canada but I see a lot of these problems everyday on CM. birth is way too much of a medical procedure in America. Midwifes should be IMO the main people helping woman have babies. I don't think that means giving birth in homes just that it should be seperated.

Also maternity leave in the states isn't helping anyone.

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
lga1965
by Ruby Member on May. 13, 2013 at 7:33 AM

 

Quoting Retrokitty:

I live in Canada but I see a lot of these problems everyday on CM. birth is way too much of a medical procedure in America. Midwifes should be IMO the main people helping woman have babies. I don't think that means giving birth in homes just that it should be seperated.
Also maternity leave in the states isn't helping anyone.

 Midwives. Only if the labor and birth are uncomplicated.

lga1965
by Ruby Member on May. 13, 2013 at 7:37 AM
1 mom liked this

 Not as far as I know . Nobody I know thinks childbirth is "very dangerous".LOL.

However,if one has placental abruption as I did with my first baby, I thank God for my Doctor. We must not generalize. My next two babies' births were a breeze. I am good at giving birth and managing pain because I know all about the process. Education is important.And saying anyone has been taught that childbirth is dangerous is ridiculous.

Quoting quickbooksworm:

I'm American and I agree. The problem is that the medical community has bred paranoia about pregnancy and childbirth for a long time. Most women on here think its unsafe and irresponsible to have your baby anywhere besides a hospital next door to an OR. Forget that birth with midwives is statistically safer with fewer risky and invasive medical interventions, we are taught in this country that childbirth is very dangerous.


Quoting Retrokitty:

I live in Canada but I see a lot of these problems everyday on CM. birth is way too much of a medical procedure in America. Midwifes should be IMO the main people helping woman have babies. I don't think that means giving birth in homes just that it should be seperated.

Also maternity leave in the states isn't helping anyone.

 

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