To estimate cause-of-death distributions in the early (0–6 days of age) and late (7–27 days of age) neonatal periods, for 194 countries between 2000 and 2013.
For 65 countries with high-quality vital registration, we used each country’s observed early and late neonatal proportional cause distributions. For the remaining 129 countries, we used multinomial logistic models to estimate these distributions. For countries with low child mortality we used vital registration data as inputs and for countries with high child mortality we used neonatal cause-of-death distribution data from studies in similar settings. We applied cause-specific proportions to neonatal death estimates from the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, by country and year, to estimate cause-specific risks and numbers of deaths.
Over time, neonatal deaths decreased for most causes. Of the 2.8 million neonatal deaths in 2013, 0.99 million deaths (uncertainty range: 0.70–1.31) were estimated to be caused by preterm birth complications, 0.64 million (uncertainty range: 0.46–0.84) by intrapartum complications and 0.43 million (uncertainty range: 0.22–0.66) by sepsis and other severe infections. Preterm birth (40.8%) and intrapartum complications (27.0%) accounted for most early neonatal deaths while infections caused nearly half of late neonatal deaths. Preterm birth complications were the leading cause of death in all regions of the world.
The neonatal cause-of-death distribution differs between the early and late periods and varies with neonatal mortality rate level. To reduce neonatal deaths, effective interventions to address these causes must be incorporated into policy decisions.