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Infant Mortality, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Infant Mortality, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Losing an infant is devastating for parents, families and communities, and can result in extreme and persistent sadness. In 2018, over 21,000 infants died in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes were congenital abnormalities, low birthweight and preterm birth, maternal pregnancy complications, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and unintentional injuries.

The U.S. infant mortality rate is consistently higher than in other developed countries. Research indicates that socioeconomic inequality in the United States is likely a primary contributor to its higher infant mortality rate. 

Maternal risk factors for infant mortality include maternal obesity (BMI>35) and use of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy.

  • CDC WONDER, Linked Birth/Infant Death Files, 2015-2016

Low Birthweight, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Low Birthweight, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Low birthweight infants (weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth) are at increased risk of infant mortality and a host of short- and long-term complications. There are two categories of low birthweight infants: moderately low birthweight infants (between 1,500 and 2,499 grams at birth) and very low birthweight infants (less than 1,500 grams at birth). Very low birthweight infants account for the majority of differences seen in health outcomes between low birthweight and normal weight infants. 

Possible health conditions affecting infants born with low birthweight include heart problems, breathing problems, bleeding in the brain, intestinal disorders and retinopathy. Health conditions that may affect children and adults born with low birthweight later in life include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, cerebral palsy, and learning and behavioral problems.

The average hospital cost for a low birthweight infant is estimated to be $27,200 and $76,700 for a very low birthweight infant, compared with $3,200 for a normal weight newborn. Very low birthweight infant care accounts for 30% of all newborn health care costs, with an annual cost of approximately $13.4 billion in neonatal intensive care unit hospitalizations. Low birthweight and very low birthweight infants who survive to adulthood often experience serious physical and mental morbidities, significantly increasing the costs of hospitalization throughout their lifespan.

  • CDC WONDER, Natality Public Use Files, 2017

Neonatal Mortality, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Neonatal Mortality, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Infant mortality is a key indicator of health and the effectiveness of the health care system in a country. In 2017, 22,341 infants died in the United States, 14,844 of whom died during the neonatal period (birth to 27 days). Further, significant disparities persist in neonatal and infant mortality, predominantly regarding race — babies born to black women have the highest rate of neonatal mortality at 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is more than two times higher than the rate for babies born to white women. Considerable progress has been made in the United States over the past 50 years to reduce infant mortality, however, more needs to be done.

Infant mortality is associated with many factors before, during and after birth, including maternal health, prenatal and postnatal care and access to quality health care. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of neonatal mortality in 2017 were:

  1. Congenital malformations
  2. Disorders related to short gestation and low birthweight
  3. Maternal complications of pregnancy
  4. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  5. Unintentional injuries
  • CDC WONDER, Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2016-2017

Preterm Birth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Preterm Birth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Preterm birth is characterized by a birth occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately one in 10 infants are born prematurely each year in the United States, and this number is increasing: rates of preterm birth increased 3 percent from 2014 to 2016. The U.S preterm birth rates is significantly higher than other developed countries.

Preterm birth can be dangerous, particularly if the infant is not fully developed by delivery. The final weeks and months of pregnancy are critical for the growth and development of major organ systems in babies, including the brain, lungs and liver. Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant mortality and the risk of death increases the earlier a baby is born. It can also lead to lasting developmental and physical disabilities including breathing and feeding difficulties, hearing and vision problems, cerebral palsy and developmental delays. Some of these health outcomes can persist through childhood and into adolescence. Cognitive and behavioral deficits in areas such as attention, visual processing, emotional control and social interaction are possible.

Preterm babies have significantly higher rates of health care use for ongoing health problems. Hospitalization costs are significantly higher for preterm infants, compared with full term infants, and are highest for extremely preterm infants (less than 28 weeks of pregnancy). The average medical costs for a premature infant were estimated to be $21,500 in 2011, compared with $3,200 for a typical birth.

  • CDC WONDER, Natality Public Use Files, 2017

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