What are the leading causes of newborn mortality?

While major strides have been made in reducing under-5 mortality rates, there has been slower progress in reducing newborn deaths. For example, in 1990 neonatal deaths represented 40 percent of global under-5 deaths, compared with 45 percent today. Of the estimated 5.9 million under-5 deaths in 2015, almost 1 million occurred in the first day and nearly 2 million during the first week. Also, an estimated 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year. The majority of these deaths and stillbirths occur in low-resource settings, and most are preventable with proven and effective interventions.

Preterm birth complications

Complications from preterm birth (before 37 weeks) result in 35 percent of neonatal deaths. Preterm birth is the leading cause of under-5 deaths.

Complications during childbirth

Intrapartum-related complications are the cause of 24 percent of neonatal deaths. In addition, the majority of the world’s 303,000 annual maternal deaths and 1.3 million stillbirths (half of the global total) occur during childbirth.

Severe infections

Severe bacterial infections – pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and sepsis – cause 28 percent of neonatal deaths. Recent analyses estimate that nearly 630,000 newborns die each year as a result of severe infections.

Other causes

Other causes of newborn mortality, such as congenital abnormalities and injuries, are responsible for 18 percent of global neonatal deaths.