Infant Mortality Facts

Infant mortality is the rate of infant deaths that occur in the first year of life.

Prior to 1900, infant mortality rates of 200 and 300 hundred per 1,000 live births were common throughout the world. The infant mortality rate fluctuated sharply according to the weather, the harvest, war, and epidemic disease. In severe times, a majority of infants would die within one year. In good times, perhaps 200 per 1,000 live births would die. In some cultures, children were not named until they had sprouted teeth or survived a year.

In the United States, the infant mortality rate overall has declined since 1900. This good news must be placed in context, however. Although the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country, the infant mortality rate lags behind most other industrialized nations (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).

And despite the wide range of expertise that has been brought to bear on this problem, the first weeks of life remain a time of high risk for many babies. Most of the progress in preventing infant mortality has come about in what physicians call the “post-neonatal period” from 28 days after birth to 1 year old.

South Dakota Infant Mortality Rates

South Dakota saw dramatic improvements in infant mortality rates from the 1960s to the 1990s. However, the state’s infant mortality rate is still alarmingly high and American Indian babies are especially at risk.

  • For 2000-2010 South Dakota’s infant mortality rate was 7.0 per 1,000 births which was
    higher than the national rate and higher than the rate of neighboring states.
  • The infant mortality rate among American Indians in South Dakota has improved in recent
    years, but it is still twice as high as the white infant mortality rate. In fact, is the highest
    rate of any state in the nation at 12.4 per 1,000 births.
  • South Dakota had a higher infant mortality rate due to preterm births than the United
    States as a whole.
  • South Dakota ranks 5th highest in the nation for mothers smoking during pregnancy and
    our American Indian population has higher tobacco use rates than the national averages.
  • Low levels of early prenatal care correlate directly with high infant mortality rates. There
    are 5 counties in South Dakota that have less than 50% of pregnant women receiving
    prenatal care in the first trimester. These same counties also have very high infant death
    rates.

For more information on Infant Mortality in South Dakota please visit: doh.sd.gov/infant-mortality/presentations.aspx

Causes of Infant Mortality

The causes of infant mortality vary widely from case to case and can be attributed to many
things including:

  • The health of the mother before and during pregnancy
  • How early the pregnancy was identified
  • The amount of prenatal care received
  • The type of care baby receives at home

Between 1990 and 2005, South Dakota’s leading cause of infant death was related to conditions including: short gestation, low birth weight, complications of pregnancy and respiratory distress.

Disease or physical abnormalities (congenital anomalies) were the second leading cause of infant death.

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) was the third leading cause of infant death. For more information on SIDS click here.

Accidents were the fourth leading cause of infant death. Accidents include motor vehicle accidents, falls, accidental drowning or poisoning, etc.

The good news is, statistics show that early and continuous prenatal care improves the chances of a having a healthy pregnancy and will improve the overall health outcome for mother and child. The earlier prenatal care is received, the less likely the baby is to die.