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Infant Mortality On The Decline, Growing Refusal To Induce Women Early May Be Partly To Thank

Apr 18, 2013 04:32 PM EDT

After years of stubborn stagnation, infant mortality in the U.S. is finally on the decline again, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The plateau, which took place between 2000 and 2005, gave way to a staggering 12 percent rate decline between 2005 and 2011 - numbers mirrored in neonatal and postneonatal mortality as well.

The decline was most significant among some of the Southern states, though the region remains home to some of the highest rates as of 2010. According to the CDC, rates are similarly high in some states in the Midwest.

The ethnic group that saw the biggest decrease in infant mortality was non-Hispanic black women at 16 percent, and lowest for Hispanic women, for whom the rate dropped just 9 percentage points.

Historically, the CDC states in its findings, infant mortality rates for non-Hispanic black women have been more than twice those for non-Hispanic white women. In the past, rates for Hispanic women have tended to correlate with the latter group.

As Dr. Marian F. MacDroman, a senior statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics told The New York Times, "We are seeing a slight narrowing of the gap, and that's very encouraging." Though she added, "the gap is still really big."

In all, four of the five main leading causes of infant death saw a decline, including congenital malformations, short gestation and low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and maternal complications.

States that saw a decline of more than 20 percent included Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and the District of Colombia. 

Currently, the two states with the highest infant mortality rate include Mississippi and Alabama, both of which still experience an average of 8 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

Such shifts, according to the CDC, represent a shift in overall wellbeing of the nation as "infant mortality is an important indicator of the health of the nation."

And while there are an assortment of reasons for the improvement, MacDorman said a major component is that more hospitals are banning mothers from scheduling births prior to 39 weeks of gestation without a medical reason.

Regarding the campaigns against inducing women early, MacDorman said, "It's been going on for a few years now and I think that it has had an impact."

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