Full-Term Infant Deaths in US Remain High, Many From Suffocation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D. Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies Cambridge, MA 02138

Dr. Bairoliya

Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D.
Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Cambridge, MA 02138

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: While the high prevalence of preterm births and its impact on infant mortality in the US have been widely acknowledged, recent data suggest that even full-term births in the US face substantially higher mortality risks compared to European countries with low infant mortality rates.

In this paper, we use the most recent birth records in the US to more closely analyze the primary causes underlying mortality rates among full-term births. We show that infants born full-term in the US face 50%-200% higher risks of infant mortality compared to leading European countries.

The two main drivers of these high relative risks are increased risk of mortality due to congenital malformations, which patients cannot really do much about other than ensuring adequate screening during pregnancy, and high risk of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy, which should largely be preventable through appropriate sleeping arrangements. While we do not have data on actual sleeping arrangements from our study, other data sources suggest that a substantial number of babies continue to sleep on their tummy; we also found a shockingly large number of babies dying from suffocation, which suggests that parents either use covers that are not safe, or let children sleep in their own beds.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: The results presented in this paper suggest that a substantial share of full-term infant deaths in the US may be preventable. Potential improvements seem particularly large for SUDI, where very low rates have been achieved in a few states while average mortality rates remain high in most other areas. Given the high mortality burden due to SIDS and suffocation, policy efforts to promote compliance with recommended sleeping arrangements could be an effective first step in this direction. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Our study shows that major improvements in full-term infant mortality seem possible in the US through increases in full-term infant survival and increases in pregnancy terminations. More research is needed to identify the most effective policies to achieve this objective.

No disclosures



Causes of death and infant mortality rates among full-term births in the United States between 2010 and 2012: An observational study
Neha Bairoliya , Günther Fink

PLOS Medicine Published: March 20, 2018

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Last Updated on March 21, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD