Over half of fatal child abuse victims in Japan in fiscal 2017 were babies aged less than one year old, a report by a health ministry expert panel showed Thursday.

Of 52 victims in the year through March 2018, excluding murder-suicide cases, 28, or 53.8 percent, were young babies, according to the report.

The mothers of 16 victims, or 30.8 percent of the total, became pregnant unexpectedly.

An aggregated tally from surveys since 2003 showed that mothers were the most frequent assailant, causing 429 of 779 child abuse deaths, or 55.1 percent.

Prenatal checkups are an important way for authorities to start supporting families with problems. But of the fiscal 2017 victims, 16, or 30.8 percent, were children from mothers who did not undergo such checkups. Unexpected pregnancy apparently leads to social isolation, causing some mothers to forgo prenatal checkups.

The expert panel called on the government to create a system to provide seamless support to mothers starting from the pregnancy period. It also called on local municipalities to ensure mothers undergo prenatal checkups.

To make it easier for women who have an unexpected pregnancy to consult someone about pregnancy and child-rearing, the panel called for the creation of a consultation system using social media.

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