The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In 2005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.
While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:
- Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
- Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
- The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
- Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
- Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.
“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”
The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.
What can you do?
Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:
- Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day (before pregnancy).
- Get a preconception checkup.
- Stay at a healthy weight and be active.
- Quit smoking and avoid alcohol and street drugs.
- Space pregnancies at least 18 months apart (from birth to conception).
- Get early and regular prenatal care.