National Vital Statistics System

Vital Statistics Reporting Guidance

Births and deaths are an important source of statistical data for identifying public health problems, monitoring progress in public health, informing the allocation of research and prevention funds, and conducting scientific research. For these reasons, complete, accurate, and standardized reporting of vital events is critical. The purpose of this reporting guidance is to provide resources to persons reporting these events with instructions on how to complete the forms (e.g., certificates), including examples of completed forms, and highlights of common pitfalls, and discussions on issues that may arise, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of the information provided on births, deaths, and fetal deaths.

This guidance may include:

  • Topic-specific Reporting Guidance – Guidance reports are designed to address the mechanics of reporting on a particular issue related to births, deaths, or fetal deaths. The reports may include background information about the importance of accurate reporting, general epidemiology about the issue, basics of reporting the event, and a series of scenarios with appropriate examples.
  • Case Reports – Case reports provide vignettes, including sources to consider when reporting the vital event (e.g., medical records, autopsy, toxicology), reporting example(s), and potential follow up (e.g., notification of health department).
  • Miscellaneous Reports – Reports that focus on other issues impacting the reporting of vital events. Examples might include information on what an on-call physician should do when asked to fill out a death certificate on another physician’s patient, guidance on when to contact the medical examiner or coroner with a potential medicolegal case, recommendations on items cut from national birth and fetal death reporting, and differentiating between live birth and fetal death. Other possible topics include information on electronic death certification, cause-of-death statements, and ICD-10 codes.

Vital Event:

Report Type:


Release Date Vital Event Title Keywords
10/23/2017 Death, Topic-specific A Reference Guide for Certification of Deaths in the Event of a Natural, Human-induced, or Chemical/Radiological Disaster [PDF – 945 KB] Mortality, natural disasters, terrorism
05/3/2019 Death, Topic-specific A Reference Guide for Completing the Death Certificate for Drug Toxicity Deaths [PDF – 1 MB] Mortality, drug overdose
03/21/2022 Death, Topic-specific A Reference Guide for Certification of Deaths Associated With Pregnancy on Death Certificates [PDF – 3,708 KB] Maternal Mortality, Cause of Death, Data Quality, National Vital Statistics System
02/27/2023 Death, Topic-specific Guidance for Certifying Deaths Due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) [PDF – 292 KB] Mortality, coronavirus, COVID-19, PASC
Vital Statistics Reporting Guidance Reports