CDC Report: More Babies Die During Pregnancy Compared To During Infancy For The First Time

Starting in 2011, there were more fetal deaths than infant deaths in the United States, according to a new CDC report, and despite better options for prenatal care, the rate of babies older than 20-weeks-gestation who have been stillborn has not declined in recent years. The report did not include any fetal deaths caused by deliberate pregnancy termination. This surprising data comes from 2011 to 2013 figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its National Vital Statistics Report. The authors of the CDC report on fetal death called for more research into the causes of fetal death.

Non-Hispanic Black women suffered the highest rate of this unexpected pregnancy loss. The rate was more than twice the rate of pregnancy loss in white women. Black women in the United States had a rate of 10.53 fetal deaths per 1,000 births, while white women had a fetal death rate of 4.88 per 1,000 births.

Fetal death rates were highest in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The states with the lowest fetal death rates for those same years, with fetal deaths occurring in less than 3.2 of every thousand, were New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Vermont.

Teenagers aged 15- to 17-years-old saw a significant rate of fetal death. These girls had 32 percent more unintended fetal losses compared to women aged 25- to 29-years-old, according to Medscape. Girls younger than 15-years-old lost babies during pregnancy at a rate that was nearly three times as high. The CDC also maintains data on teen birth rates, which recently reached the lowest ever recorded in seven decades. The number of babies that were born to mothers aged 15- to 19-years-old even declined ten percent between 2009 and 2010. Large declines in teen births from 2007 to 2010 were seen in states including Mississippi, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Florida, and Georgia, according to NCHS data.

According to Medscape, previous research indicated that male babies are at the greatest risk of dying during pregnancy, and the recent CDC data showed that males had a six percent greater risk of prenatal death than girls. Black male babies had a risk of prenatal death that was actually double that.

When the CDC examined the intrauterine death rates in 2013 by gestational age, one-third of all stillbirths occurred between 20 and 23 weeks, and one-half occurred between 20 and 27 weeks. An article cited by the CDC report which was published in The BJM in 2013 found that of all stillbirths, well over 40 percent of the mothers had no risk factor that was modifiable. Fetal death data is available on the CDC’s NCHS website.

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