Oh Baby! U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Takes a Surprising Turn After 20 Years

U.S. Experiences First Increase in Infant Mortality Rate in Two Decades

U.S. Infant Mortality Rates on the Rise: A Startling Turn of Events

News Picture: U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Climbs for First Time in 20 Years

By Denise Mann

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2023 (HealthDay News) – Brace yourselves folks, because I have some shocking news for you: the U.S. infant death rates have edged up by a whopping 3% in 2022! You read that right. After almost two decades of decline, we’re experiencing a major baby crisis.

According to Danielle Ely, a statistician at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, “This was the first year we saw statistically significant increased rates of infant mortality in about 20 years.” Infant mortality simply measures how many little bundles of joy don’t make it to their first birthday. It’s heartbreaking, I know.

Now, we can’t point fingers and say that we know exactly why more babies are dying, but there’s a sneaky little culprit that might be involved: the pandemic. You know, that thing that put the entire world on pause? Yeah, that one. Dr. Deborah Campbell, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, explains that “The U.S. was still in the throes of COVID in 2022, which had myriad and varied impacts across the U.S. and disparate impacts by race, ethnicity, maternal age and geographical region.” So, COVID decided to join the party and add one more thing to its naughty list.

Now, buckle up and let me take you on a wild ride through some data. A group of researchers looked at birth certificates and infant death data collected through the U.S. National Vital Statistics System for 2021 and 2022. They discovered that the infant mortality rate in 2022 increased for moms aged 25-29. Are we surprised? Not really. It seems like being a millennial mom takes more than just an Instagram account and avocado toast.

But wait, there’s more! The rate also rose for preterm babies, male infants, and babies born in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas. It’s like these babies started a secret club and decided to wreak havoc on our peaceful world! And guess what? The chaos didn’t stop there. Infant death rates for babies born to American Indian or Alaska Native women climbed by more than 20%. It went from about 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births to more than 9 deaths per 1,000 births. Talk about breaking records! On the other hand, the rates for white women increased by about 3%. Woohoo, we’re making progress…not.

Hold on tight, because I’m not done dropping truth bombs. Ely also mentioned that death rates for babies of Black women didn’t increase by that much, but they still remained the highest. It’s like the universe is playing a cruel game of statistics with us.

“The infant mortality rate is one of many ways that we measure the overall health of a nation, and increases in this rate can indicate a larger public health issue,” Ely warns. Can we hit the reset button on this game? Pretty please?

Now, let’s put on our thinking caps and ponder whether this 2022 rise is just a statistical blip or a more lasting trend. Ely points out, “If this increase is confirmed in coming years, more research will be needed into what is driving these numbers, and prevention efforts targeting those at-risk will also be needed.” So, scientists, please do your thing and get us some answers!

In the meantime, Dr. Campbell declares the new report as plain “concerning.” She emphasizes that we need more data and a thorough analysis to understand what’s lurking behind this increase. We’re talking about hidden factors that may have protected certain ethnic/racial/cultural groups. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion, folks.

To wrap things up, I’d like to leave you with some food for thought: imagine a world where babies flourish, where every newborn has a fighting chance. It’s a world we must fight for, because our tiny humans are depending on us. Together, we can make a difference.

More information:

The March of Dimes has more on planning for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Sources: Danielle Ely, PhD, statistician, U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Rockville, Md.; Deborah Campbell, MD, neonatologist, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and professor, pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Vital Statistics Rapid Release Reports, November 2023

QUESTION #### QUESTION: Newborn babies don’t sleep very much. See Answer