Infant mortality occurs when a baby dies anytime between birth and 1 year of age. Out of 227 world countries, the United States ranks 174 in infant mortality cases, making us in the top 25 percent of countries with the lowest infant mortality cases—but just barely.
For every 1,000 births in the U.S, between 5 and 6 result in infant mortality. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were almost 21,000 infant deaths in the U.S. in 2019 alone.
What are the leading causes of infant mortality?
Infant mortality can occur for a number of reasons, including birth trauma caused by medical negligence. The CDC reports that the leading causes of infant death include:
- Congenital abnormalities (21 percent)
- Disorders related to low birth weight or preterm birth (17 percent)
- Maternal pregnancy complications (6 percent)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (6 percent)
- Unintentional injuries (6 percent)
Additionally, maternal risk factors that have been shown to increase the risk of infant mortality include:
- Alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy
- A BMI greater than 30
- Being younger than 25 or older than 40
- Living in a rural area
Who is most affected by infant mortality?
According to data from the CDC, the following states had the highest infant mortality rates in 2020, falling somewhere between 6.5 and 8.12 deaths per every 1,000 births:
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
In terms of ethnicity, infant mortality rates were highest among infants who were:
- Black (10.6 per 1,000)
- Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (8.2 per 1,000)
- Native American and Alaskan (7.9 per 1,000)
The lowest infant mortality rates occurred in infants who were Hispanic, Asian or white—all with an infant mortality rate of 5 or less per 1,000 births.
What can be done to reduce infant mortality rates?
Although much has been accomplished in the U.S. since the 1970s to reduce the number of infant deaths, there is more progress to be made. Reducing poverty would help expectant mothers to have healthier pregnancies and afford appropriate prenatal and postnatal care.
Additionally, pregnant mothers need to be educated about the importance of:
- Abstaining from alcohol and drugs during pregnancy
- Maintaining or achieving a healthy pre-pregnancy and pregnancy weight
- Preventing infant suffocation through healthy sleeping practices
When might a doctor be responsible for an infant’s death?
There are a variety of instances when the actions or inactions of a healthcare professional might contribute to infant mortality, including:
- Failing to provide appropriate prenatal care
- Failing to order necessary tests and take appropriate action based on the results
- Failing to intervene when infant monitoring indicates the possibility of umbilical cord problems or entanglement leading to asphyxiation
- Using excessive force during a delivery that requires forceps or vacuum extractors
- Failing to properly diagnose or treat a baby born with a life-threatening condition
- Ordering or administering the wrong medication or dose
When to contact a birth injury attorney
Doctors have a standard of care that they owe to their patients, and all medical professionals are expected to watch for symptoms of developing medical conditions in mothers and babies to protect them when they’re most vulnerable.
If you believe your doctor or other medical professional’s actions or inactions resulted in an injury to you or your baby, you may have cause to file a medical malpractice claim. Laura Brown at Brown Trial Firm has dedicated her practice to advocating for families who have experienced the loss of a child due to someone else’s negligence.