Save the Children conducts yearly worldwide studies to determine the best and worst countries in which to be a mom.
Disappointingly, the U.S. ranked 31 out of 43 developed countries, behind Poland and Slovakia. (We’ve pulled out the best and the worst developed countries at the bottom of this article.)
Since everyone can’t just up and move to top-ranked Norway, we’ve highlighted some of the factors that went into the less-than-stellar ranking. In the process, we’ve come up with some things you can do to make the most of your life in grand ol’ 31.
1. Maternal Mortality Rate
In spite of our first world status, surprisingly one in 2,100 moms dies in childbirth in the U.S., the highest of any industrialized nation. Amnesty International points to lack of accessibility to good health care as a huge factor in this high number. Additionally, C-sections, which can lead to complications like blood clots, infection and excessive bleeding, rose 25% over 7 years. Despite all this, the maternal mortality rate number should be taken with a grain of salt, says Mary Beth Powers, campaign chief for newborn and child survival with Save the Children. The more children a woman has, the higher the probability that something will go wrong. One of the reasons the U.S. has such a high rate “is that, on average, moms here are having more children.”
The takeaway: If you have insurance and access to good health care, don’t let this get to you too much. If you don’t, get health insurance under control. To make sure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible, take prenatal vitamins and talk to your doctor about illnesses or diseases that run in your family, like diabetes or high blood pressure.
2. Our Under-Five Rate
The rate of children under five years old who pass away is eight per 1,000 births in the United States; 40 industrialized countries performed better than we did on this. The majority of these are newborns, especially preemies. Powers says that one reason the U.S. has such a high rate is that more people use fertility drugs that cause multiple births. As Science Daily points out, fertility drugs are responsible for one of every five multiple births in the U.S.
The takeaway: Before using fertility drugs, know the risks—and steer clear of overly aggressive clinics that promise success. If you do become pregnant with twins or triplets, know that good prenatal care can lower the risks that go along with a multiple pregnancy.
3. Preschool Enrollment
Only 58% of children in the United States are enrolled in preschool—the fifth lowest rate in the developed world. This is a factor in the rankings because pre-primary programs teach socialization skills and creative play skills, which help get kids ready for more advanced schooling. But in the U.S., many parents just can’t afford to put their kids in school for those additional early years.
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The takeaway: If you can’t afford preschool, make sure that your toddler is socialized and stimulated by joining play groups with other moms and earmarking a few hours a day to do educational, creative play with your child. You could also search for a Head Start program in your area, which is a federal program for preschool children from low-income families.
4. Maternity Leave
The U.S. has the least generous maternity leave policy—both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid—of any wealthy nation. Average maternity leave covers six weeks for vaginal births and eight weeks for a C-section (whether you’ll be paid for that time is up to the company). There’s a reason it’s “Uncle Sam” and not “Aunt Samantha.”
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