HomeScienceInfant Deaths Have Risen for the First Time in 20 Years

Infant Deaths Have Risen for the First Time in 20 Years

According to provisional figures released by the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of American babies who died before their first birthdays increased last year, causing a significant rise in the nation’s infant mortality rate. This is the first increase in the rate in two decades, reflecting the state of maternal and child health in the United States. Infant and maternal mortality are often considered indicators of a society’s overall health, and America’s rates are higher compared to other industrialized countries. The rates are particularly concerning for Black and Native American mothers, who are three times more likely to die during and after pregnancy compared to white and Hispanic mothers. Their infants also face a higher risk of mortality compared to their white and Hispanic counterparts. The increase in infant mortality comes after a century of public health improvements, in which rates consistently declined almost every year.

The report did not provide a specific cause for the increase, but it suggests that the spike could be related to the rise in maternal deaths during the pandemic. Many pregnant women fell ill during this time, leading to a 40 percent increase in maternal deaths in 2021. The report highlights that the increase in infant mortality rates is significant and warrants further investigation to determine if it is a one-time anomaly or the start of a concerning trend. The report also notes a disturbing increase in infant mortality among babies born to women aged 25 to 29, although the cause for this increase is unknown. Rates did not change for women in other age groups.

Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, president and chief executive of the March of Dimes, expressed surprise and disappointment at the new infant mortality figures. She emphasized the need to closely analyze the data to identify the underlying causes for the increase. The pandemic may have contributed to pregnancy complications as more women began pregnancies with underlying medical conditions. The rise in infant mortality cannot be attributed to any one factor alone, and a comprehensive examination of the data is necessary to understand the complexities involved.

Losing a baby can have a significant and lasting impact on families. The article shares the story of Erika Nolting Young, whose baby died shortly after birth. The increase in infant mortality is reflected in the reported deaths of 20,538 babies in 2022, representing a 3 percent increase compared to 2021. The infant mortality rate also rose by 3 percent to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. The mortality rate increased among premature and extremely premature babies, with statistically significant increases observed among male infants. Black infants still have the highest mortality rate, but the increase last year was not statistically significant. However, statistically significant increases were observed among white infants and Native American and Alaska Native babies.

The leading causes of infant deaths last year were bacterial sepsis and maternal health complications. The rarity of infant deaths makes it difficult to identify statistically significant changes at the state level. Nevada was the only state to see a statistically significant decline in infant mortality, while four states, including Texas, experienced statistically significant increases. Experts noted that the data does not clearly show whether Texas’ abortion ban, implemented in 2021, played a role in the increase in infant deaths the following year. Other states implemented similar bans in 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.