Leading Causes of Death in Infants

Topics: Childbirth, Infant mortality, Preterm birth Pages: 5 (1574 words) Published: January 16, 2006
The Leading Causes of Infant Deaths
"Infant mortality (as defined by Wikipedia Encyclopedia) is the death of infants in the first year of life." Infant mortality deaths can be caused by several different factors including health of the mother, health practices, and living conditions of the mother. "In the United States, about two-thirds of infant deaths occur in the first month after birth and are due mostly to health problems of the infant or the pregnancy such as preterm delivery or birth defects"(www.childstats.gov). The Five Leading Causes of Infant Death

"The five leading causes of infant death in the United States are birth defects; prematurity/low birth weight; SIDS, maternal complications of pregnancy and respiratory distress syndrome"(National Center for Health Statistics).

After researching the five leading causes of infant death, birth defects are established as the number one cause of infant death in the United States. This is a broad category, and there are many different birth defects that may contribute to the death of an infant.

The March of Dimes defines birth defects as "an abnormality of structure, function or body metabolism presenting at birth or early childhood that results in physical or mental disability, or is fatal." There are a couple of different contributors to genetic birth defects. Some birth defects stem from a person's ancestry. For example, Tay-Sachs is a genetic disorder mostly found in those of Jewish descent. In some instances a child may inherit one or more faulty genes from one or both parents, resulting in a birth defect of some sort. "Down-Syndrome, in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome 21, is one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities." (www.marchofdimes.com)

There are other factors which can contribute to an infant being born with birth defects. If the mother has abused drugs or alcohol, exposure to certain medications and other environmental factors can just as easily contribute to the cause of birth defects. A mother's exposure to certain infections such as Rubella can also play a role in an increased risk of infant mortality. Mother's exposed in the first trimester are at a great risk for many fetal abnormalities, including death. Prevention Programs for Birth defects

There are many different programs in place that support the education of birth defects. There are currently seven states who house centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. "These seven regional centers and the eighth site at the CDC are participating in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, the largest study of the causes of birth defects ever conducted."

There are also programs in place aimed at preventing fatal birth defects. For example, "each year in the United States, approximately 2,500 babies are born with neural tube defects." This group concluded that up to "70% of NTD's could be prevented by expectant mothers consuming approximately 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. A study in 2001 showed that NTD's in newborns decreased by 19% between 1995 and 1999 in wake of this campaign."(www.marchofdimes.com)

Although there are many programs in place to support increased education regarding birth defects, one of the simplest ways to prevent this problem is through the practice of healthy living. If more women, who were choosing to bear children, would take extra steps to ensure their health and the health of their unborn children, the numbers would almost surely show a decrease in the number of infants born with birth defects in this country. Premature /Low Birth Weight Infants

Low birth weight babies are divided into two groups. The first, premature infants are those born at 37 weeks or less gestation. The second group, Intrauterine growth retarded (IUGR) are those infants born small for their known gestational age. "Low birth weight infants are at a greater risk for health problems throughout their lives."(www.ci.berkeley.ca.us) Not...

References: National Center for Health Statistics. final natality data for 2000. Prepared by March of Dimes
Perinatal Data Center, 2002.
National Center for Health Statistics. Final Mortality data, 1990-1994, and period linked
birth/infant death data, 1995-2001.
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