Causes of neonatal death


Causes Of Neonatal Death


A neonatal death is the death of a baby within the first four weeks of life. TheLatest figures latest for the number of babies who died in this period in the UK nations are for 2008.

The most common causes of neonatal death in 2008 were:

  • congenital anomalies (23%)
  • associated obstetric factors (20%) such as premature rupture of the membranes, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), and lack of oxygen during labour
  • infection (13%).


 While many babies die neonatally because they are born either prematurely or with a congenital abnormality, neonatal deaths are sometimes associated with antenatal management (failure to pick up on IUGR, possible infection, placental function or haemorrhage) or events during labour (birth trauma or asphyxia).




Neonatal Care


It’s well known that there are serious resourcing issues with regards to standards of neonatal care in the UK. The NHS Neonatal Taskforce was set up in February 2008 prompted by a report by the National Audit Office criticising the quality of neonatal care in England


[1]. The Taskforce produced a document in November 2009 called the Toolkit for High Quality Neonatal Services which identifies a chronic shortfall of 2,700 nurses and 300 supporting therapists in neonatal care


[2].These staff shortages mean that not all babies, unlike most adults, get the minimum one-to-one nursing care they should get in intensive care


[3]. It also means that some babies are being transferred from unit to unit, not because of clinical need, but because there aren’t enough cots and staff to accommodate them.

But we also believe that some babies who die in the early neonatal period do so, not because they are born prematurely and neonatal services are unable to look after them, but because of the kind of care they received antenatally or during labour. 

In 2007, for instance, 10% of babies who died neonatally in the UK did so because of events during labour


[4]. These are surely some of the most avoidable deaths of all and should not happen.

Sands supports the work of Bliss in highlighting issues relating to neonatal care service provision in the UK. To see their work go to


[1] Caring for Vulnerable Babies: The Reorganisation of neonatal services in England, December 2007; National Audit Office

[2] Toolkit for High Quality Neonatal Services, November 2009, Department of Health.

[3] Too little, too late? Baby report 2007, Bliss

[4] Perinatal Mortality 2007, Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health