5 best and worst places for moms
May 6th, 2011
04:26 PM ET

5 best and worst places for moms

The best country to be a mom is Norway, with its generous maternity leave, lowest infant mortality rate and high preschool attendance rates.

The worst place is Afghanistan and several sub-Saharan African countries, where female life expectancy is low and women endure multiple high-risk pregnancies, according to Save the Children’s annual rankings  released before Mother’s Day. The photo above shows a baby born in the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The health rankings were based on lifetime risk of maternal death, percentage of women using modern contraception, the presence of a skilled attendant at birth, and female life expectancy.  The Mothers’ Index compared the well-being of mothers and children in 164 countries.

The United States ranked number 31 out of 43 developed countries.

Many find it shocking that the U.S. is ranked so far back, said Mary Beth Powers, Save the Children's chief of the Child Survival Campaign.

“Kids don’t go to preschool, women who die in childbirth and we lose more newborns than most developed countries,” she said about American motherhood.

Only 58% of U.S. kids go to preschool compared with 98% in Iceland, 95% in Norway and 82% in Australia.

Compared with other developed countries, U.S. scored dead last is in the issue of paid maternity leave, Powers said.  In the U.S., the typical family leave is 12 weeks compared with  six months to a year in Europe, where mothers can bond with their babies and establish good breast-feeding practices.

In more resource-strapped countries, the criteria varied.

In countries like Afghanistan, women had poor access to basic health care, endured high risk pregnancies and didn’t have access to midwives or medical facilities during delivery.

Compared with five to 10 years ago, conditions are improving, said Powers.  The death rate of children under the age of five in Afghanistan dwindled to 20%, from 25%.  But more efforts has to be made to improve health of mothers and children, Powers said. The complete list is available at Save the Children.

Top 5 places for mothers:

1. Norway
2. Australia
3. Iceland
4. Sweden
5. Denmark

Worst 5 places for mothers:

164. Afghanistan
163. Niger
162. Guinea-Bissau
161. Yemen
160. Chad

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.