Facility delivery should reduce early neonatal mortality. We used the Slope Index of Inequality and logistic regression to quantify absolute and relative socioeconomic inequalities in early neonatal mortality (0 to 6 days) and facility delivery among 679,818 live births from 72 countries with Demographic and Health Surveys. The inequalities in early neonatal mortality were compared with inequalities in post-neonatal infant mortality (28 days to 1 year), which is not related to childbirth.
Newborns of the richest mothers had a small survival advantage over the poorest in unadjusted analyses (−2.9 deaths/1,000; OR 0.86) and the most educated had a small survival advantage over the least educated (−3.9 deaths/1,000; OR 0.77), while inequalities in post-neonatal infant mortality were more than double that in absolute terms.
The proportion of births in health facilities was an absolute 43% higher among the richest and 37% higher among the most educated compared to the poorest and least educated mothers. A higher proportion of facility delivery in the sampling cluster (e.g. village) was only associated with a small decrease in early neonatal mortality. In conclusion, while socioeconomically advantaged mothers had much higher use of a health facility at birth, this did not appear to convey a comparable survival advantage.