Breaking News

Fetal Mortality Rate Hits Record Low in U.S. | Healthiest Communities Health News

The U.S. fetal mortality rate hit a record low in 2019 and has declined by close to 25% since 1990, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the report, released on Tuesday, researchers with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics say that while public concern often centers around the problem of infant mortality – or the death of an infant before their first birthday – fetal mortality is “a major but often overlooked public health issue.” Fetal death refers to the intrauterine death of a fetus – it can occur at any gestational age and is an “all-inclusive” term that aims “to end confusion arising from the use of such terms as stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and miscarriage,” according to the report. It does not include an induced pregnancy termination, such as an abortion.

While the “vast majority of fetal deaths occur early in pregnancy,” the analysis says, states typically require reporting of those that occur once a fetus reaches at least 20 weeks of gestation. In 2019, a total of 21,478 of these deaths occurred in the U.S. at a rate of 5.7 per 1,000 live births and fetal deaths – a “historic low,” according to the report. The rate was 3% lower than the mark of 5.89 in 2018 and 24% lower than the mark of 7.49 in 1990. Officials have data on fetal mortality dating back to 1942.

The fetal mortality rate in 2019 was highest among Black women at 10.41 per 1,000 live births and fetal deaths, with a statistically insignificant decline occurring between 2018 and 2019. The rate among white women declined by 4% year over year from 4.89 to 4.71, while the rate among Hispanic women declined by 5% from 5.06 to 4.79. The fetal mortality rate was lowest among Asian women at 4.02.

Other notable differences in fetal mortality occurred by age and location. Rates were highest among mothers 40 to 44 years of age (9.06) and 45 years of age and older (9.79), and lowest among mothers 30 to 34 years old (5.09).

Among states, Mississippi had the highest fetal mortality rate in 2019 at 9.41, while the rate was lowest in New Mexico at 3.00. Those two states also saw the highest and lowest rates of fetal mortality at 24 weeks or more of gestation for the combined years 2017 to 2019 – an analysis included in the report to help address potential issues of statistical reliability and varied area reporting requirements.

Researchers also said the rate of fetal death was more than 1.5 times higher among women who smoked while pregnant (8.52) than among those who did not (5.06).

Among more than 15,600 fetal deaths in 42 states and the District of Columbia in 2019, the report says 31.3% of deaths were from unspecified causes; 25.5% were from placental, cord and membrane complications; 12.5% were from maternal complications of pregnancy; 10.3% were from maternal conditions that may not have been related to pregnancy; and another 10.3% were tied to congenital malformations.