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September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Baby blocks spelling out the word babyLearn about infant mortality in the United States, including causes and differences in rates among population groups.

About Infant Mortality

Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. In addition to giving us key information about maternal and infant health, the IMR is generally viewed as an important marker of the overall health of a society. In 2014, for every 1,000 babies born in the United States, almost 6 died before their first birthday, a record low. However, racial and geographic differences in infant mortality rates remain.

Disparities in Infant Mortality

In 2014, the IMR for non-Hispanic black infants was more than twice the IMR for non-Hispanic white infants.

Infant Mortality Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin, United States, 2014

	Bar chart: Infant Mortality Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin, United States, 2014

Source: National Birth and Death files accessed through CDC WONDER.

Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. One of the Healthy People 2020 objectives is to reduce the rate of all infant deaths. In 2014, 26 states met the Healthy People 2020 target of 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Geographically, infant mortality rates in 2014 were highest among states in the south. Rates were also high in some states in the Midwest.

Infant Mortality Rates by State, 2014

	U.S. map showing infant mortality rates per state

Source: Multiple Cause of Death Data, CDC WONDER, National Center for Health Statistics.

Contributors to Infant Mortality

Preterm birth, or being born too early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), is the biggest contributor to infant death. In 2013, about one third (36%) of infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes. Among non-Hispanic black infants, preterm-related causes of death rates are three times higher than those of non-Hispanic white infants. Other contributors to infant mortality include:

To reduce the number of babies dying within their first year, the rates of preterm birth and racial disparities need to be addressed. We can work to reduce preterm birth using the following strategies:

  • Providing women age 18–44 access to care before and between pregnancies;
  • Identifying women at risk for giving birth too early and offering effective treatments to prevent preterm birth;
  • Discouraging deliveries before 39 weeks without a medical need;
  • Preventing unintended pregnancies and achieving ideal birth spacing (length of time between pregnancies); and
  • When undergoing in vitro fertilization, electing single embryo transfer as appropriate to reduce multiple births.

Learn more about infant mortality from CDC.