The Best and Worst Places to Be a Mom


On Monday, in anticipation of Mother's Day on May 11, the nonprofit organization Save the Children released its 15th annual State of the World’s Mothers global report on women and children in 178 countries, along with the Mother’s Index, a ranking of the 10 best and worst countries in which to be a mother. Unfortunately, at No. 31, the United States didn’t make the top 10 list by a long shot, falling from No. 30 in 2013 and from No. 25 in 2012. “Fifteen years ago, the United States was No. 4 in the top 10 bracket," Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, tells Yahoo Shine. "But now, we're weak in three areas: maternal and child mortality rates and lack of women represented in Congress."

The rankings are based on the following criteria: lifetime risk of maternal death, the mortality rate for children under the age of 5, number of years of formal schooling, gross national income per capita, ability to respond to emergency disasters, and the percentage of women involved in politics. 

Here are the 10 best countries to be a mother:


A few reasons why America fared so badly: Although our country performs well when it comes to economic and educational status, its maternal health, child wellbeing, and political status is poor (46th, 40th, and 96th in the world, respectively). As an example, American women face a 1-in-2,400 risk of maternal death and are more than 10 times as likely as women in Estonia, Greece, or Singapore to die from a pregnancy-related cause. Although it’s unclear why, it could be that women here are enduring more high-risk pregnancies caused by rising rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cesarean sections. What’s more, America’s under-5 mortality rate is 7.1 per 1,000 live births — in practical terms, this means that children in the U.S. are three times as likely as children in Iceland to die before their fifth birthdays.  

Politically speaking, while women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, they hold less than 19 percent of seats in Congress. That's in stark contrast to Rwanda, where women hold 58 percent of seats in Parliament.

Finland nabbed the top spot because its maternal deaths affect less than 1 in 12,000 women, and the probability of a child dying before the age of 5 is around 1 in 345 — a stark contrast to the worst country to be a mother, Somalia, where 1 in 16 women dies from maternal causes and 1 child in 7 dies before his 5th birthday.

"So many Scandinavian countries made the top 10 list because they typically excel in all areas, including educating women and girls about how to respond to emergency disasters," says Miles. "And the Mediterranean diet, popular in Spain, may be one reason that country scored so well on maternal health." Countries that didn't make the top 10 list but deserve honorable mentions include Nepal, which prioritized getting basic health care to mothers in rural areas, helping it move out of the bottom 10 and up 60 places this year. And Afghanistan, which in 2010 was ranked the absolute worst place to be a mother, jumped 30 spots this year, due in part to improving education for women and girls.

Here are the 10 worst countries to be a mother (with the lowest-scoring country last): 

Côte d’Ivoire
Sierra Leone
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo

These countries ended up on the list because most of them are places undergoing military conflict, which are the most unsafe for women and children. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it’s statistically more dangerous to be a mother or child than it is to be a soldier. That's because more women die from preventable and treatable conditions such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition than soldiers do in battle.

"We can improve quality of life for mothers and children in all countries by increasing the number of women in Congress or Parliament," says Miles, "ensuring that women and children have basic prenatal and general health care — vaccinating kids so they don't die from preventable diseases, making antibiotics affordable and accessible — and improving education."