The number of babies in the Netherlands dying at birth or shortly afterwards has decreased but still remains high in European terms, according to new pan-European research.
The Netherlands is now fifth from bottom in the Peristat ranking of 29 European countries, compared with second last in the previous survey dating from 2004.
Only Latvia, Romania, Hungary and France have a higher perinatal death rate. Babies in Cyprus, Iceland and Portugal have the best chance of survival.
In 2004, 10.5 babies died per 1,000 births in the Netherlands but in 2010 that had fallen to nine per 1,000, a drop of 14%. The figures are based on a pregnancy of at least 22 weeks, so include very premature babies.
Research institute TNO, which provided the Dutch figures, says if 24 weeks and 28 weeks are taken as the base line, the Netherlands would rank around the middle.
The improvement in the Dutch situation follows intensive efforts to reduce the infant mortality rates by increasing cooperation between hospitals, midwives and other healthcare professionals. At the same time, fewer pregnant women smoke and the number of teenage mothers has gone down.
The introduction of an echoscopy in the 20th week of pregnancy may also have had an impact, Maastrict professor Jan Nijhuis is quoted as saying by website nu.nl.
Critics have put the high Dutch baby death rate down to the policy of encouraging home births, although there is no evidence home births are more dangerous than hospital births, the Volkskrant said.
Although around 40% of Dutch women plan to give birth at home, only around 22% actually do so.