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Infant Mortality in North Carolina
Causes and risk factors

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In North Carolina, the leading causes of infant deaths in 2012 were:

  1. Prematurity* and low birthweight**
  2. Birth defects

(from Opens in new windowNorth Carolina State Center for Health Statistics)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
For the first time in years, deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) dropped significantly and is no longer in the top three causes of infant death.

A variety of conditions originating in the perinatal period (around the period of birth) and respiratory distress (often associated with prematurity) are also major contributors to infant death.

Risk Factors for Infant Mortality

Research has identified some key risk factors contributing to high-risk pregnancies and infant deaths:

  • Previous premature or low birthweight baby
  • Less than optimal health before a woman becomes pregnant
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy
  • Inadequate nutrition and insufficient intake of folic acid (a B vitamin) before and during pregnancy
  • Using street drugs and alcohol during pregnancy
  • Baby's exposure to secondhand smoke after birth
  • Infant sleeping on his stomach
  • Close spacing between pregnancies
  • Infections - including reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and periodontal (oral) infections during pregnancy

*Prematurity refers to babies who are born too early - before 37 weeks of gestation (pregnancy). A normal pregnancy is considered to be 40 weeks although the majority of women deliver within two weeks of their due date (between 38 and 42 weeks). Even babies born late (between 34 to 36 weeks) are at increased risk for health problems.

**Low birthweight refers to babies who are born weighing less than five and a half pounds - often too small to be healthy. Very low birthweight refers to babies born weighing less than 3 lbs. 5 oz.

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Last updated: October 2013

 
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