Neonatal Mortality and Stillbirths

Neonatal Mortality and Stillbirths


Syphilis increasing the risk of negative labour outcomes[1]

In study of Malawi women, 21% of perinatal deaths, 26% of the stillbirths, 11% of the neonatal deaths and 8% of the infant deaths were attributable to syphilis. A RPR-test, one that does not requires sophisticated laboratory equipments, can demonstrate the presence of the infection and contribute to the cure of it. 
The health status of infants is closely linked with the mother’s health and well-being. It is estimated that every year around 4 million babies die in the first week of their life, the so called neonatal period[2]. Almost all the neonatal deaths (calculated as the neonatal mortality rate; NMR) occur in low- or middle income countries (figure 1.1). The main causes of neonatal death are preterm births [28%] (with organs being un- or underdeveloped life chances sharply decrease), severe infections (36% including pneumonia [26%], tetanus [7%] and diarrhoea [3%]), and asphyxia (23%). The presence of HIV makes pregnant women even more vulnerable for infections and other negative pregnancy outcomes.
Besides the high number of neonatal deaths, 2,6 million infants are stillborn each year; they die in the uterus during the last three months of the pregnancy[3]. Most often the infants die because of childbirth complications and maternal infections, easily preventable with adequate obstetric care and labour guidance by skilled births attendants like midwives and physicians. 
Just as with maternal mortality and morbidity, humanitarian emergencies aggravate health risks for the unborn. Due to high levels of stress many women residing in refugee camps or caught between conflict zones prematurely go into labour which consequently negatively affects the infant. Hence, many neonates that are either premature or that have been subjected to stress are vulnerable to asphyxia, a deficient supply of oxygen to the body, and hypothermia, the body temperature decreasing below 20°C. The mutual aggravation of both conditions may result in hypoglycaemia, low blood sugar, causing heart failures.


[1] UNFPA. (2013). Safe Motherhood. Retrieved on September 3, 2013 from:

[2] Lawn, J. E., Cousens, S. & Zupan, J. (2005). 4 Million Neonatal Deaths: When, Where, Why? Lances, 365, p. 891 – 900.

[3]UN. (2011). Vast Majority of Stillbirths Found in Developing Countries. Retrieved on August 26, 2013 from: