More Babies Are Alive & Well

Infant mortality rates in the US have dropped in the past few years

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) In the US, the odds of newborn babies seeing their first birthday are looking better. The drop in deaths may be a good sign for overall health of the nation.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that infant mortality rates have fallen since 2005.

Despite the drop, the US still ranks poorly among developed countries for infant mortality rates.

"Don’t skip prenatal check-ups."

Researchers from the Division of Vital Statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, a department within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released infant mortality rates in the US between 2005 and 2011.

“Infant mortality is an important indicator of the health of a nation,” said the authors.

In 2000, the researchers found that 4.63 out of every 1,000 newborns younger than 28 days old had died. In the same year, 2.28 out of every 1,000 infants between 1 month and 1 year of age had died. The overall number of infant and newborn deaths in the year 2000 was 6.91 out of every 1,000 babies under 1 year of age.

The researchers found that by 2005, 4.54 out of every 1,000 newborns had died. And in a slight uptick from 2000, 2.34 out of every 1,000 infants had died.

A slow but steady decline in newborn deaths was found between 2005 and 2011, from 4.63 out of every 1,000 newborns to 4.04 out of every 1,000 newborns.

A similar decline was seen in infant deaths, with 2.34 deaths out of every 1,000 infants in 2005 to 2.01 out of every 1,000 infants in 2011.

The number of infant and newborn deaths in the year 2005 was 6.87 out of every 1,000 babies under 1 year of age. By 2011, the rate of mortality had dropped to 6.05 out of every 1,000 babies under 1 year of age.

After significant declines throughout the 20th century, the US infant mortality rate remained steady between 2000 and 2005, declined significantly from 2005 to 2006, changed little between 2006 to 2007, then began to drop a little each year between 2007 through 2010, the authors said.

Based on early data from 2011, the researchers said the rate in 2011 was 12 percent lower than the rate in 2005.

When distinguishing between newborns and infants, the decline in mortality rates between 2005 and 2011 was 11 percent for newborns and 14 percent for infants.

The researchers looked at mortality rates based on race and ethnicity as well. Between 2005 and 2011, infant deaths declined 12 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 16 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and 9 percent for Hispanics.

“Historically, infant mortality rates for non-Hispanic black women have been more than twice those for non-Hispanic white women, while rates for Hispanic women have been similar to those for non-Hispanic white women,” said the authors.

The top five leading causes of infant mortality between 2005 and 2011 were as follows:

  • Birth defects
  • Premature birth/low birth weight
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Complications with the mother
  • Accidental injury

Between 2005 and 2011, the rate of death from birth defects fell 6 percent, 9 percent for premature birth/low birth weight and 7 percent for complications with the mother.

The greatest decline was found in SIDS, with a 20 percent reduction from 2005 to 2011. The authors suspected that the reduction in SIDS cases could be due to changes in the way SIDS has been diagnosed and reported over the years.

The rate of accidental injuries did not change significantly between 2005 and 2011.

Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington DC saw 20 percent declines in infant mortality rates between 2005 and 2010. However, the authors said that the states with the greatest declines were also the states that had the highest rates of death to begin with. 

Mississippi and Alabama had the highest infant mortality rates in the country in 2010.

Infant mortality rates in the US have been considered very high for a developed country. In 2008, and again in 2011, the US ranked 27th in infant mortality rates among developed countries.

Previous studies have pointed to a high percentage of premature births as a reason for the high number of infant deaths. This report was published in April on the CDC's website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 17, 2013
Last Updated:
December 11, 2013