Report: U.S. Is the 25th Best Country to Be a Mom

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Just in time for Mother’s Day, the annual State of the World’s Mothers Report from the Save the Children foundation offers some hopeful news for American mothers: the U.S. moved up six spots in the ranking of the best countries in which to be a mom, to 25th place from 31st last year.

The annual report [PDF] rates the well-being of mothers and children in 165 countries based on a variety of factors like mother’s education, infant mortality rate, breast-feeding prevalence and election of women to government office.

At the top of the list is Norway, which has one of the highest rates of contraceptive use in the world and one of the most generous maternity-leave policies among developed nations. Women in Norway are highly educated and well represented in government. The country also boasts the highest female-to-male income ratio and is tied for the second-lowest under-5 mortality rate among developed countries.

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The U.S. has bolstered its ranking — now falling between Belarus and the Czech Republic — due largely to improvements in already high levels of female education. But it falls woefully behind other developed countries on many measures. For instance, the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation, with a 1 in 2,100 risk of dying in childbirth; women in the U.S. are seven times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than a woman in Ireland or Italy.

Infant mortality rates in the U.S. aren’t much better. The under-5 mortality rate in the U.S. is 8 per 1,000 births, which puts it behind 40 other countries.

The report also notes that the U.S. has one of the least generous maternity leave policies of any wealthy nation. It is the only developed country — and one of only a handful of countries worldwide — that does not guarantee paid leave for working moms. Instead, by law, new mothers get 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Compare that to Norway, where, according to the report:

After giving birth, mothers can take up to 36 weeks off work with 100 percent of their pay, or they may opt for 46 weeks with 80 percent pay (or less if the leave period is shared with the father). In addition, Norwegian law provides for up to 12 months of additional child care leave, which can be taken by both fathers and mothers. When they return to work, mothers have the right to nursing breaks as they need them.

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“Investing in this most basic partnership of all — between a mother and her child — is the first and best step in ensuring healthy children, prosperous families and strong communities,” said Carolyn Miles, the President and CEO of Save the Children USA, in the report.

Save the Children recommends that the U.S. government, along with other industrialized countries, work to improve education initiatives and health care and nutrition, especially for disadvantaged mothers and their children.

Here are the 5 best countries to be a mom:

1. Norway
2. Iceland
3. Sweden
4. New Zealand
5. Denmark

The 5 worst countries to be a mother:

161. Mali
162. Guinea-Bissau
163. Yemen
164. Afghanistan
165. Niger

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