The worldwide incidence of neonaticide: a systematic review

Cintia T. Tanaka, William E Berger, Alexandre M. Valença, Evandro Da Silva Freire Coutinho, Girardin Jean-Louis, Leonardo F. Fontenelle, Mauro Vitor Mendlowicz

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Neonaticide is the killing of a neonate on the day of its birth by his/her own mother. Neonaticidal women were reported to be predominantly young, unmarried, and primiparous. The motive for murdering the newborn relates to the shame, the fear of rejection, and abandonment by significant others, and the social stigmas associated with an illegitimate birth. The goal of the present study was to conduct a systematic review of the scientific literature and identify population-based studies reporting the incidence of neonaticide in different countries. A total of 485 abstracts were screened. After applying the inclusion/exclusion criteria, 10 studies were selected. Additional searches identified two more articles. Most of these studies were from Europe, where incidence varied from 0.07 (Finland, 1980–2000 period) to 8.5 neonaticides per 100000 births (Austria, 1975–2001 period). More recent studies have indicated that a growing proportion of neonaticidal women are married, multiparous, and suffers from mental disorders. Preventive measures, such as anonymous free delivery, were shown to reduce the incidence of neonaticide, although this effect may be short-lived. Despite social and institutional changes, neonaticide persists even in the most socially advanced, liberal, and prosperous societies in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-256
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Epidemiology
  • Infanticide
  • Neonaticide
  • Newborn murder
  • Shame
  • Social stigma

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