Neonatal Risks

The risk of newborn death is highest during childbirth and directly afterwards; almost half of all newborn deaths occur in the first 24 hours of life, and three-quarters occur in the first week.

Quality care at birth is critical to avert the deaths of mothers, newborns and stillborn babies. After delivery, common conditions and illnesses can turn deadly without timely, basic and low-cost care, including warmth, hygiene, early and exclusive breastfeeding, antibiotics and resuscitation. However, for many newborns more advanced specialist care is required if they are to have a chance to survive.

Globally, the three main causes of neonatal deaths are:

Premature birth
This is the leading direct cause of neonatal deaths worldwide, and accounts for 29% of all neonatal deaths.

Birth asphyxia
Around 23% of neonatal deaths are due to birth asphyxia, which is the failure to initiate or sustain spontaneous breathing at birth.

Approximately 29% of neonatal deaths are caused by severe infections, and a high percentage are due to neonatal sepsis/pneumonia alone.

Read the latest report on neonatal mortality in 193 countries, find out about the defining years of neonatal care.

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