Expatica news

Dutch top EU baby death toll

27 November 2003

AMSTERDAM — In what has been described as “very alarming” figures, the Netherlands has the highest European Union rate of baby deaths in the month before or after birth, new research indicated on Thursday.

The Peristat research revealed that in the Netherlands, 7.4 foetuses out of every 1,000 die a month before birth. In Germany that figure is 3.5 out of 1,000, while in Belgium that figure was 4.5 and 3.9 in Sweden.

Also, a relatively large number of babies die in the Netherlands in the first month after birth, with figures indicating the death rate is four out of every 1,000. The European average is 3 out of 1,000, newspaper Trouw reported.

The EU-sponsored research — published in trade magazine European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology — compiled figures on a range of topics such as multiple baby pregnancies, the health of pregnant or new mothers, the number of women who die around childbirth and the number of baby deaths.

The Netherlands scored badly on several points, but performed especially poorly in regards baby or foetus deaths. The death rate, for example, as a result of low birth weight (under 2,500g) is above average.

The latest figures come after research indicated five years ago that Amsterdam had the second worst baby death figures among European capital cities.

An obstetrics professor with the Academic Hospital in Maastricht and the vice-chairman of gynaecology association NVOG, Jan Nijhuis, said the figures were “very alarming”.

“Moreover, it is frustrating because in the Netherlands we think that we are all doing good work: the obstetricians, gynaecologists, family doctors and children doctors. But that is in fact not so,” he said.

The Netherlands was for a long period almost a “guide” in the area of contraception, pregnancy and birth, but has lost its exemplary position in recent years.

“That is because we either let our affairs get in a mess or because something radical changed in our population. That is partly so: we have received more migrants and (have) increasingly older mothers,” Nijhuis said.

“These groups are more at risk to a bad result from pregnancy. But maybe we can’t hide behind there. Germany, for example, also has a lot of migrants.”

The professor also said it was concerning that possible explanations for the high death rate were only speculation. “A lot of pregnancy details are quite simply not well registered.”

“There is, moreover, not enough money and interest for good academic research and all sorts of privacy rules hamper the research,” he said.

But the EU-commissioned researchers also attributed the high death rate to the fact that the Netherlands does not screen women for birth defects as much as other EU countries do. Therefore a fewer number of pregnancies are terminated and about 25 percent of Dutch baby deaths are attributed to birth defects.

The Dutch Government recently decided that only pregnant women aged 36 years or older — and who are therefore at higher risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome or spina bifida — will receive the standard tests.

But a parliamentary majority made up of the Democrat D66, Liberal VVD and Labour PvdA has demanded that all pregnant women be offered the opportunity to have their unborn child tested for abnormalities, an NOS news report said.

Meanwhile, the researchers also said the Netherlands has a relatively large number of older mothers, with one in five above the age of 35 at the time of the child’s birth. Only Spain and Ireland have higher percentages. 

The research indicated the Dutch have the second highest percentage of multiple baby births and a large number of migrant mothers, a group more susceptible to baby deaths, nu.nl reported.

The Dutch tradition of homebirths — which account for one out of every three births — did not explain the higher baby death rates. It is possible though that the death rate will decline now that breach birth babies are more often delivered by Caesarian, which has been common practice in other EU nations for some time.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news