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Why Giving Birth Is Safer in Britain Than in the US

The United Kingdom’s mortality rates for mothers and newborns are three times lower than those in the U.S. But why? ProPublica and NPR took a closer look to see what Britain’s medical system does to assure that its mothers and babies don’t meet the same ill fates that too many in the U.S. do. What ProPublica found was that not only are maternity costs lower in Britain, but the medical procedures in place dealing with both pregnancy and maternal emergencies are drastically different, from conception to post-birth.

The dismal maternal and infant mortality rates in the U.S. are an embarrassment considering the high cost of health care and the quality of intensive medical care available. As one of only 13 countries whose rates worsened over the past 25 years, that the U.S. ranks so low when it comes to preterm birth, low birth weight and maternal and newborn deaths is nothing short of criminal. And, yes, it’s time to take a hard look at why U.S. mothers and babies are doing so poorly.

One major difference is the number of vaccines given to both pregnant moms and infants. The U.S. vaccination schedule specifies 26 doses of vaccination before age 1, the most of any other country. Using linear regression, scientists compared results from 34 countries and found those countries with the lower number of vaccines given also had the lowest rates of infant mortality. Of the 34 countries, 33 had lower infant mortality rates than the U.S.

Another significant factor is the vitamin D level of both mothers and infants. Studies presented at an international vitamin D research conference found vitamin D supplementation may save the lives of 500,000 premature babies worldwide, annually. Specifically, mothers who took 4,000 IUs of vitamin D3 reduced their risk of premature birth by half. They also had fewer infections and fewer morbidities due to diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.

Vitamin D status has been found to be so important that a two-year-long community project implemented at the Medical University of South Carolina confirmed 40 to 60 percent of preterm births are prevented by raising pregnant women’s vitamin D to a level of 40 ng/mL.
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