What's The Best Place To Be a Mother? Not Here. 5 Reasons Why.

The U.S. is not the best place to have a baby, study says.

Looking for the ideal place to have and raise your children? You might want to pack your bags, and consider moving to Norway. You could also try Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, or France. According to the annual Mothers’ Index rankings from Save The Children, these are the top ten places to be when it comes to the care and welfare of mothers, women and children. Where’s the U.S. on this list? A good twenty countries down the line, after Slovakia. The U.S. ranked #31 out of 43 developed countries.

Women’s rankings were calculated by health and life expectancy factors,  educational, economic and political status. Children’s rankings tallied health and education levels. The overall Mothers’ rank was a combination of these two factors—though the criteria were weighted differently.

So why did we rank so low on the list? 1.Maternal mortality. At 1 in 2,100, The U.S. rate is the highest in any developed nation.  Only Albania, the Russian Federation, and Moldova scored lower in this category.

2. Child mortality. Under 5 mortality rate in the U.S. is 8 deaths to every 1000 births. A child in the U.S. is more than twice as likely to die in the first five years of life as a child in Norway, Greece, Iceland, Finland, Japan, Singapore,  Luxembourg, Slovenia or Sweden.

3. Only 58 percent of American children are enrolled in preschool. The U.S. ranks 5th-lowest in the developed world in early childhood education.

4.  The U.S. maternity leave policy of 12 weeks of unpaid leave is called “the least generous of all wealthy nations”.  Of all the countries on this list, only one offered women less: Montenegro.

5. The U.S. lags behind in women’s political representation. Only 17% of congressional seats are filled by women, compared to 45% in Sweden, and 43% in Ireland.

So what’s so great about Norway?  In addition to scoring as well or better than other developed countries on all indicators, Norway has the highest ratio of female to male income, one of the most generous maternity leave polices, and one of the lowest child mortality rates.

Save the Children urges the U.S. to improve health care and education for economically disadvantaged women—both prenatally and after their children are born.  But there may be a range of contributing factors. Diabetes and high blood pressure, both potential byproducts of the American diet, may complicate pregnancies and births and have been linked to health problems in offspring. And then there’s the controversial question about whether our attitude toward childbirth is playing a role.   Clearly the U.S. is in a pretty shameful state where women and children’s health is concerned. I hope someone with the power and the priorities to change things is taking note.

See the Mothers’ Index Rankings here.

photo: Banspy/flickr

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