Infancy should mark the beginning of life, not the end. Even though the rates of infant deaths are at an all-time low, far too many babies still die before their first birthday. For this reason, September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month – a time for us to share the sad fact that babies still die in infancy, and to help spread the word about how to fix this problem.
In 2013, in the United States, 23,446 infants died before reaching their first birthday, which is an infant mortality rate of 6.0 per 1,000 live births. Or, put another way, on an average day in the U.S., 64 babies die before reaching their first birthday.
What causes infant death? Can it be prevented?
“Preterm birth, or being born too early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), is the biggest contributor to infant death,” according to the CDC. In 2013, about one third (36%) of infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes. Among non-Hispanic black infants, the rate of preterm-related death is three times higher than those of non-Hispanic white infants.
Other causes of infant mortality include low birth weight, birth defects, pregnancy complications for the mother, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and unintentional injuries (accidents). Although the rate of infant deaths in the U.S. has declined by almost 12% since 2003, the death of any infant is still one too many.
Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby.
A woman can help reduce her risk of giving birth early by getting a preconception checkup, staying at a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol and street drugs during pregnancy. Spacing pregnancies at least 18 months apart and getting early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy are also key parts of a healthy pregnancy.
It’s part of our mission
March of Dimes is committed to preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. It is our hope that through continued research, we will have a positive impact on the lives of all babies so that fewer families will ever know the pain of losing a child.
If you or someone you know has lost a baby, we hope that our online community, Share Your Story, will be a place of comfort and support to you. There, you will find other parents who have walked in your shoes and can relate to you in ways that other people cannot. Log on to “talk” with other parents who will understand.
Even in the year 2016, “the U.S. has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the industrialized world,” according to NICHQ, the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality.
March of Dimes is working hard to make this fact history.