September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. Infant mortality is when an infant passes away before their first birthday. Two-thirds of these deaths occur in the neonatal period, up to 27 days after a baby is born, and the remainder occur between 27 days and a year after the infant’s birth. Infant mortality is a traumatic, devastating experience for all involved, especially the baby’s parents. Though often there are no certain ways to prevent infant mortality, we can work to reduce its risk through stellar prenatal care and data-driven practice.
The top causes of infant mortality are birth defects, preterm birth and low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), pregnancy complications, and accidents. Infant outcomes and maternal outcomes are linked, especially in cases where the infant dies during or immediately after childbirth. For some of these causes, patients can take key steps during their pregnancy to reduce the risk.
Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality. Some birth defects pose more risk to the baby’s health than others, and birth defects can affect any pregnancy. However, risk factors like a lack of folic acid, drinking alcohol or using drugs, certain infections, health conditions, or environmental exposures can have an effect. If you are pregnant, be sure to take your prenatal vitamins with folic acid as instructed by your provider and refrain from drinking, smoking, or using drugs.
Preterm birth and low birth weight are complications that can occur with any pregnancy. Some of the risk factors for these complications are immutable: age under 18 or over 35, having multiples, or conceiving using in vitro fertilization. Other possible risk factors such as hypertension, metabolic disorders, and stress can be mitigated by patients with access to clinical and social care. If you are at high risk for preterm birth, it is particularly important to be in frequent contact with your doctor and attend all of your prenatal appointments. The Delfina Care platform continuously updates your provider on your symptoms and health data to improve their ability to optimize their care for you regardless of your pregnancy risk profile.
The stark disparities in pregnancy outcomes are reflected in infant mortality rates as well: the mortality rates for Black, Native American, and Pacific Islander infants are approximately twice as high as the rates for white infants. Just as with maternal health, social determinants of health affect the wellbeing of infants: Black and Native patients are more likely to receive later or no prenatal care, which can have implications for infant health.
Infant mortality is part of the larger maternal health crisis in the U.S. Our rates of infant mortality are higher than other high-income nations, and the systemic and social issues that affect Black and Brown mothers affect the health of their babies as well. We created Delfina Care to reduce health disparities and improve pregnancy outcomes for patients and their children. To explore improving pregnancy outcomes for patients of all risk profiles with our AI-powered pregnancy care platform, join us.