More babies die in Poland


Central Europe


Photo EPA, Amel Pain

More and more newborns, infants and unborn children die in Poland. Medical experts say that the near-total ban on abortion, introduced last year, is behind the development. Covid and the deteriorating general health of Polish women is also a factor.

The infant mortality rate in Poland increased in 2021, reversing a long-term decline. Last year, the infant mortality rate was 3.9 per 1,000 births, a 9 per cent increase from 3.57 in 2020 (which was slightly above the EU average of 3.4), according to data from the Polish Statistical Office.Of neonatal deaths, on the first day of life, the rate rose 19 per cent in 2021, from 1.08 to 1.28.

Dr Ewa Helwich from the Institute of Mother and Child is a national consultant in the field of neonatology. She calls the trend disturbing. “Each of these indicators is higher than in the previous few years. Even though the figures do not show colossal differences from year to year.” According to Helwich, the numbers are also a result of the number of births falling. “What counts is the number of such cases per thousand births.”

Last year’s figures bucked a long-term trend of declining infant mortality rates, which had fallen significantly since the early 1950s when the figure reached almost 120 per 1,000 births. By 2000, it had dropped to 8.1 and in 2010 stood at 5.0.


The Polish daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna writes that experts point to the Constitutional Tribunal decision as one of the reasons for the increase in infant mortality. Last year, this court ruled abortions for malformed foetuses to be unconstitutional. As CNE reported earlier, this ruling caused the number of abortions to drop by nearly 90 per cent.

However, the near-total ban is not the sole reason. According to Krzysztof Preis, a voivodeship consultant of obstetrics and gynaecology, there are more reasons: worse perinatal care due to the epidemic, the impact of COVID-19 on the health of mothers and children, and the systematic deterioration of the health situation of the entire population, including growing obesity and other civilisation diseases.

According to Dr Grzegorz Świercz, head of the gynaecology and obstetrics clinic at the Provincial Complex Hospital in Kielce, higher perinatal mortality is primarily the result of the new law. Dziennik Gazeta Prawna writes about one of the largest hospitals in Podlaskie Voivodeship, a province in Northern Poland. There, three out of four gynaecological and obstetric actions in the last few days are just miscarriages. Quietly, some interviewees say that these are women who use abortion pills at home.



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