U.S. Ranking Plummets on “Best & Worst Places for Mothers” List

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A new report says that being a mom in the U.S. is riskier now than it was just eight years ago. The United States now ranks 31 out of 178 countries — 13 spots below neighboring Canada — on Save the Children's list of best places to be a mother. Back in 2006, North America was ranked number 6. 

Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, says that in the U.S., the lifetime risk of maternal death has risen more than 50 percent since the non-profit charity launched their initial report in 2000.

"Today, an American woman faces the same lifetime risk of maternal death as a woman in Iran or Romania," said Miles.

Over the same period of time, America has made only mediocre strides toward saving children's lives by cutting the risk of death to kids younger than 5 years old by just 15 percent; shockingly, only 14 other countries have made less progress in the last 15 years.

Even with this poor record, the worst places to get pregnant, give birth, and raise a child remain war-torn and poverty-stricken countries. More than half of the maternal and child deaths worldwide happen in countries plagued by humanitarian crisis, including Somalia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The Democratic Republic of the Congo ranks second-to-last on the list, and remains a place where it's more dangerous to be a woman or child than an armed fighter. Afghanistan earned the bottom spot on the list in 2010 and 2011, but in 2012 advanced 32 spots largely because the country has invested in midwife training, immunization programs, and officials have begun allowing girls to attend school.

European countries have dominated the top position, and this year is no exception: Finland was chosen as the healthiest place to be a mother or child, followed by Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands. Australia, which ranks ninth on the list, has made the top ten every year since the list made its debut.

Miles says there's no reason a country with the resources and medical expertise that the U.S. has should see an increase in maternal deaths. Some suggest that a lack of access to prenatal care and other health services, coupled with increasing obesity, diabetes, and similar conditions may be to blame. Fifteen years ago, the United States was ranked fourth.