September Is Infant Mortality Awareness Month
Learn more about infant mortality risk factors and take action to reduce the risk.
The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. Unfortunately, over 23,000 infants died during 2013 in the United States. The loss of a baby remains a sad reality for many parents and takes a serious toll on the health and well-being of families.
What Are the Causes?
Fortunately, most newborns grow and thrive. However, for every 1,000 babies born, 6 die during their first year. This figure, 6 deaths for every 1,000 births is referred to as the infant mortality rate. Most of these babies die as a result of:
- Birth defects
- Preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birth weight (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces)
- Maternal complications of pregnancy
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Injuries (e.g., suffocation)
The top five leading causes of infant mortality together accounted for about 57% of all infant deaths in the United States in 2013.
Eat healthy for you and your baby.
What Can You Do?
Pregnancy and childbirth have a huge effect on the health of women and their families. Pregnancy-related health outcomes are influenced by factors such as race, ethnicity, age, and income, but most importantly—a woman's health.
Good preconception health and care means living a safe, healthy lifestyle and managing any current health conditions before getting pregnant. By taking action on health issues before pregnancy, many future problems for the mother and baby can be prevented.
It is important for all women of reproductive age to adopt healthy behaviors such as:
- Taking folic acid
- Maintaining a healthy diet and weight
- Getting regular physical activity
- Quitting tobacco use
- Not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or using "street" drugs
- Talking to your health care provider about preventing and managing chronic diseases
- Talking with your health care provider about taking any medications
- Visiting your health care provider at the recommended scheduled time periods for your age and discuss if or when you are considering becoming pregnant
- Using effective contraception correctly and consistently if you are sexually active, but wish to delay or avoid pregnancy
- Preventing injuries and considering the safety of your home and family (e.g., wear seat belt, take CPR, install and test smoke alarms)
A healthy pregnancy begins before conception and continues with appropriate prenatal care and addressing health problems if they arise.
What Is the Infant Mortality Rate?
The infant mortality rate (IMR) is an estimate of the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. The IMR is often used as an indicator to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also affect infant mortality rates. The IMR in 2013 declined to 5.96 overall, but disparities still exist. There are differences in infant mortality by age, race, and ethnicity.
Medical advances over the last 60 years have helped save babies and dramatically reduced l infant mortality. However, the United States still has a relatively poor global standing compared with other developed nations. A main reason for this is because the United States has a high percentage of preterm births which contributes to a higher infant mortality rate.
The good news is we can help reduce infant mortality among babies born preterm by addressing key risk factors such as prenatal smoking that contribute to low birthweight, preterm delivery, preterm-related death, and SIDS. Also, parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death by taking action to create safe sleep environments.
- Page last reviewed: September 8, 2015
- Page last updated: September 8, 2015
- Content source:
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Reproductive Health
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs