Neonatal mortality in the UK - how many babies die in their first 28 days of life?

In 2015 in the UK, 1,360 babies who were born after 24 weeks’ gestation died in their first 28 days of life.

Overall, neonatal mortality rates are declining. This means that generally fewer babies per 1000 births are dying each year. The graph below shows neonatal mortality rates in England and Wales from 1985 to 2015.

Why do babies in the UK die soon after birth?

In 2014, 31 percent of babies who died in their first 28 days of life died due to complications after birth; this was the largest cause of death. 28 per cent of babies died due to congenital anomalies, and 18 per cent of deaths were due to babies being born extremely early.

Find out more about the causes of neonatal deaths.

Factors such as race, the age of the mother, and the economic situation of the area of birth can also increase the risk of neonatal death:

  • In 2015 more babies born to mothers living in the most deprived areas died in the neonatal period when compared to mothers who lived in less deprived areas.

  • Similarly, more babies born to mothers aged under 20 and over 40 died, when compared to other age groups.

  • Babies born to Black, Black British, Asian or Asian British parents had a 45 per cent increased risk of neonatal death compared to babies of white ethnicity.

There are several factors which can also further increase the risk of neonatal mortality:

  • Smoking during pregnancy can lead to many complications for the baby. The baby is at higher risk of being born prematurely, of being born with a low birth weight, and also at higher risk of death. In 2015 around 20 per cent of mothers of babies who were stillborn or who died in the neonatal period smoked throughout their pregnancy. Read NHS Choices' advice on stopping smoking during pregnancy.
  • Obesity during pregnancy has also been associated with increased neonatal death rates.

Babies who die after 24 weeks of pregnancy, without showing signs of life after birth, are known as stillbirths. You can find out more about stillbirth rates in the UK from the charity Sands.

What are the survival rates for babies born premature?

How early a baby is born has an effect on their chance of survival, and a high proportion of neonatal deaths in the UK are due to complications caused by prematurity.

The following survival rates have been calculated from the number of live births and deaths (under one year old) at each gestation (point of pregnancy) in 2013. The figures below do not include stillbirth.

It is important to remember that every baby has a unique set of circumstances, and just because a baby is born extremely prematurely does not mean they won’t survive. This should be taken into consideration when reading these survival statistics.

If you have been affected by the information on this webpage or if you need support at any time, please call the Bliss helpline on 0808 801 0322 or email