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In December 2008, the EURO-PERISTAT project launched the first European Perinatal Health Report. This presents and comments on indicators of perinatal health and care derived from routine statistical data in 25 EU member states and Norway.1 The report is part of the EU Health Programme for health surveillance and reporting. It also includes chapters from three other European projects with perinatal data: Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe (SCPE), European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (Eurocat) and European Neonatal Information System (Euroneostat).
Maternal and infant mortality have reached historic lows in Europe, but pregnancy and delivery still represent significant risks for women and their babies. Mortality during birth and the first month is higher than in any other period of life excluding old age. Over the years, stillbirth rates have decreased to a lesser extent than neonatal and infant mortality, and their causes remain largely unknown.2 Maternal deaths are rare but tragic events, particularly because a significant proportion of these deaths are associated with substandard care.3
Preterm birth and low birthweight form a stable if not increasing proportion of all births, and the scope for prevention has lagged behind developments in care.4 Their adverse effects extend from increased mortality to long-term physical, neurological and cognitive impairment, representing significant burdens for the children and their families, and a challenge for health and social services.5 Even in the absence of overt impairments, there is growing evidence that health in the perinatal period affects adult health. Babies born too small because of …
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