The number of infant deaths in the US during the first year of life increased in 2022, according to preliminary statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
This marks the first statistically significant rise in infant deaths since 2002, painting a worrying picture of infant mortality trends in the country.
A recent case in a Wisconsin hospital serves as a poignant illustration of the dangers that babies may face during their early days.
A teenage mom delivered her baby boy at just 25 weeks gestation in fetal distress. Doctors launched a vigorous effort to revitalize the child, employing ventilation, cardiac compressions, chest tubes, and other methods.
Tragically, their efforts proved futile. Later, it was discovered that the mother had an undiagnosed case of syphilis, underscoring the significance of maternal health in infant outcomes.
Dr. Dennis Costakos, Director of Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, emphasizes the intrinsic link between maternal and infant health.
“The health of the baby is often directly related to the health of the mother,” he states. Experts view infant mortality as a critical indicator of overall population health.
A Symptom of Broader Health Challenges in the US
The recent surge in infant deaths also mirrors concerns about the US’s performance in other vital population metrics.
The maternal mortality rate has increased, and the average life expectancy is on the decline. The NCHS report highlights a momentous shift in infant mortality statistics, indicating a significant increase to 5.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022, compared to 5.44 in 2021.
The NCHS gathered data from the National Vital Statistics System, drawing from birth and death records across all 50 states and the District of Columbia for children’s first year of life.
While these figures are provisional, the authors released them early to alert healthcare providers and officials to this concerning trend. The finalized report is expected in the spring, providing a more comprehensive analysis.
Several factors contribute to this alarming rise in infant mortality. The child poverty rate doubled in 2022, underscoring the significance of economic stability for infant health.
Additionally, expanded Medicaid coverage available during the COVID-19 pandemic has been curtailed, affecting access to critical healthcare services.
Georgia Machell, interim president and CEO of the National WIC Association, stresses the importance of a proactive and conscientious approach to maternal and child health.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is one of the essential programs dedicated to supporting the nutritional needs of mothers and children.
The increase in infant deaths in 2022 is not limited to a particular demographic; it spans several groups.
Native American and non-Hispanic white infants witnessed the most significant uptick in mortality rates, with Indigenous infants experiencing an increase from 7.46 to 9.06 per 1,000 births and white infants from 4.36 to 4.52.
The infant death rate among children born to Black women also rose from 10.55 to 10.86.
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders and Hispanic people saw slight increases in infant deaths, while deaths of infants born to Asian American women declined.
The increase in infant mortality rates in 2022 is a cause for alarm, and it underscores the need for a comprehensive approach to maternal and infant healthcare in the United States.
As medical experts and policymakers grapple with this concerning trend, the health and well-being of both mothers and their newborns take center stage.