New Report Shows Decline in Stillbirths

For Immediate Release: February 21, 2007

Contact: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, Office of Communication (301) 458-4800

Fetal and Perinatal Mortality, United States, 2003. NVSR Volume 55, Number 6. 18 pp. (PHS) 2007-1120.
PDF Version (689 KB)

The rate of fetal deaths occurring at 20 weeks of gestation or more (also known as stillbirths) declined substantially between 1990 and 2003, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although fetal mortality rates declined among all racial and ethnic groups from 1990-2003, the rate for non-Hispanic black women was more than double that of non-Hispanic white women (11.56 per 1,000 vs. 4.94 per 1,000).

“While we can certainly see progress has been made in preventing fetal mortality, it is also clear that disparities remain along race and ethnic lines,” said Dr. Marian MacDorman, lead author of the study.

The report, “Fetal and Perinatal Mortality, United States, 2003,” was prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and looks at intermediate (20-27 weeks) and late fetal deaths (stillbirths) as well as perinatal deaths (deaths occurring soon before or soon after birth).

Other findings include:

  • The fetal death rate declined steadily by an average of 1.4 percent per year from 1990-2003.
  • The decline in fetal deaths since 1990 has occurred primarily among pregnancies 28 weeks of gestation and longer; the fetal death rate for pregnancies 20-27 weeks of gestation has changed little since 1990.
  • The rate for American Indian or Alaska Native women (6.09 per 1,000) was 24 percent higher than that for non-Hispanic white women, whereas the rate for Hispanic women (5.46 per 1,000) was slightly higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white women. The rate for Asian or Pacific Islander women (4.98 per 1,000) was similar to that of non-Hispanic white women.
  • Relatively little is known about the causes of fetal mortality. However, recent research has identified a variety of risk factors, including smoking during pregnancy, maternal obesity, severe or uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, infections, placental and cord problems, intrauterine growth retardation, and a woman having a previous case of perinatal death.