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Facts About Infant Mortality

Back to 2002 Curriculum. 

  • Infant mortality is the death of a baby within the first year of life (or before their first birthday).

  • The nation's infant mortality rate has been steadily declining for decades, but it is still one of the highest in the industrialized world.

  • Even though Maryland's infant mortality rate is at a historically low point, it is still higher than many other country's rates.

  • Maryland's African-American infant mortality rate is at almost three times the rate for white infants.

  • Factors contributing to higher mortality rates among African American infants include higher rates of poverty and inadequate access to health insurance, prenatal care and proper nutrition.

  • When a baby dies within the first 28 days of life in Maryland, it could be caused by birth defects, problems related to premature birth, low birth weight and pregnancy complications. About one quarter of these deaths are caused by premature birth and low birth weight.

  • Low birth weight babies (meaning babies born weighing less than 5½ pounds) are about 40 times more likely to die in their first month of life than other babies.

  • Many cases of low birth weight are preventable through early regular and comprehensive prenatal care.

  • Primary causes for a baby dying after the 28th day, but before the first birthday, include sudden infant death syndrome (or SIDS), birth defects and injuries.

  • Birth defects that cannot be prevented account for only 17 percent of these deaths. The remainder is likely to stem from preventable causes.

  • A mother's smoking and drug use during pregnancy may cause a poor outcome for the baby.

  • Babies who have healthy mothers are more likely to be healthy themselves. Even if a woman thinks she is healthy, she should still seek prenatal care, because she may have underlying health problems that could affect her health and the health of her baby.

  • The best time for a woman to see her doctor is when she thinks there's a chance she may get pregnant, because it is important to plan pregnancies.

  • The next best time is as soon as she finds out she is pregnant.

  • Churches, businesses, community groups, families and friends can all make a difference.

  • In 1998, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. was about 7 per 1,000 births.

  • In 2000, Maryland's infant mortality rate of 7.4 was almost 11 percent lower than 1999's rate of 8.3.

  • In 2000, infant mortality was worst in Baltimore City, and Caroline, Wicomico and Prince George's Counties.