If you’ve ever wondered where a mom’s quality of life is best, it’s Norway, according to a new report by Save the Children, an international nonprofit group. The report says Norway earned the top spot due to a number of factors, including:
It has the highest ratio of female-to-male earned income, the highest contraceptive prevalence rate, one of the lowest under-5 mortality rates and one of the most generous maternity leave policies in the developed world.
The risk of maternal mortality in Norway is 1 in 7,600 and nearly all births are attended by skilled help.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, is the most perilous place for mothers: expecting mothers there are at least 200 times more likely to die during childbirth than from bombs or bullets, according to a release on the group’s site. One in 11 Afghan women will die from pregnancy or childbirth complications in her lifetime and only 14 percent of mothers there give birth with help from any sort of skilled health worker.
The report, which has been released annually for the last 12 years, analyzes health, education and economic conditions for women and children in 164 countries.
The United States ranks at number 31–a ranking that’s lower than you’d expect, and it’s due in part to mortality rates here for both mothers and children. U.S. maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100 – the highest of any industrialized nation, the report notes.
A woman in the U.S. is more than 7 times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes and her risk of maternal death is 15-fold that of a woman in Greece. … The U.S. under-5 mortality rate is 8 per 1,000 births. This is on par with rates in Latvia. Forty countries performed better than the U.S. on this indicator. At this rate, a child in the U.S. is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Singapore or Sweden to die before reaching age 5.
It’s also worth noting, as the report points out, that among wealthy countries, America has the stingiest policy on maternity leave, both in duration and percent of wages paid.
As for what the United States can do to improve, the report suggests that the government join forces with communities to improve education and health care for disadvantaged mothers and children. I’d add to that list a better maternity-leave policy, one that doesn’t leave so many U.S. families scraping for cash. According to MomsRising.org:
- In the U.S., 49% of mothers cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave.
- 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave — so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.
Much has been written about the difficult choices moms make regarding the decision to either stay home full time, or work in some capacity–the burdens of this juggle just might lessen a bit if U.S. policies were to improve. I’m not suggesting that the government could give all moms absolute peace of mind with a simple act of legislation. But surely more can–and must–be done. It’s unacceptable for a country that calls itself the leader of the free world to offer such a poor quality of life for its mothers. They have, after all, the hardest, most important jobs out there.
- State of the World’s Mothers (release from Save the Children)
- The 2011 Mothers’ Index (report from Save the Children)
- Norway best for moms, Afghanistan worst (story by the Associated Press, via Yahoo News)
- The Fight for Paid Maternity Leave (Motherlode, Feb. 1, 2010)
- Maternity/Paternity Leave (MomsRising.org)
Those numbers are shocking! And I wonder how our children would benefit if more moms felt like they had a real choice to stay home with them. Some would still choose to work, I know, but there are lots of moms who wish they could be home with their children longer but simply can’t get time away from work.
And I wonder why the mortality rates for pregnant women and babies are so high. And what percentage of pregnancies are considered high risk, since I know large portion of my friends have had at least one high-risk pregnancy.
Great questions, Rachel. Certainly fodder for another piece …
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