Premature Birth Now Leading Cause of Infant Mortality in United States
Approximately 34% of infant deaths within the first year of life are of premature babies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
These figures, presented based on new research, are twice as high as previous estimates.
The previous figures were 17% infant mortality attributed to premature birth had been derived by counting those deaths with short gestation/low birth weight (premature birth) listed as the cause of death on the dealth certificate. Of the 27,970 infants who died in 2002, some 4,600 had a cause of death listed as premature birth.
In the new research, led by Dr. B Callaghnan of the CDC, babies who died of conditions closely linked to premature birth were also counted. Dr. Callaghan's research revised that number to 9,600 of the 27,970. His numbers include conditions such as brain hemorrhage, premature rupture of membranes, and respiratory distress syndrome.
The most common cause of death in the United States, according to official reports, is birth defects, with premature birth as the second most common. However, the new figures presented by Dr. Callaghan put premature birth as the leading cause of death among infants in the United States.
The number of premature births in the United States has increased over 30% since 1980.
The findings were published in the October issue of Pediatrics.