Infant Mortality Rises For First Time In 20 Years

(Photo by Rami al SAYED / AFP) (Photo by RAMI AL SAYED/AFP via Getty Images)

Sarah Wilder Social Issues Reporter
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Total infant mortality rose in 2022, marking the first year-to-year increase in 20 years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

In 2022, 20,538 U.S. infants died, up from 19,928 in 2021. Over the same period, the death rate rose from 5.44 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 5.6 deaths. The findings were detailed in a report titled, “Infant Mortality in the United States: Provisional Data From the 2022 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death File.”

The CDC counted mortality rate by comparing the linked birth certificates and death certificates of infants in the year 2021 to that of the year 2022. In 2022, less than 1.4 percent of infant deaths were not linked to a birth certificate.

The study found the largest increases among American Indian and Alaska Native babies, with the rate rising from 7.46 deaths per 1,000 live births to 9.06. (RELATED: COVID Disproportionately Killed Men Despite Media Focus On Health Inequities)

“The reported increase in infant mortality rates is disturbing and disappointing,” Dr. Sandy L. Chung, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement. “We live in a country with abundant resources. Yet the infant mortality rate in the United States is shockingly high.”

“There are many different reasons for this,” she continued. “We do know that families in poverty face many challenges including access to nutritious food and affordable healthcare. Racial and ethnic disparities related to accessible healthcare – including prenatal health services – are just one of the many possible reasons for lower birth weights of babies and sometimes, infant deaths.”

The report’s lead author, Danielle M. Ely, told The New York Times that statisticians were unsure whether the increase was a “one-year anomaly” or the beginning of a larger trend.

Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, an OB-GYN, noted that most of the babies were conceived toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were just coming out of Covid,” Dr. Cherot said, per the Times. “We were doing a lot of telemedicine. Did that shift something? Were protocols changing? Was access a bigger issue? We know mental health can also have an impact. A lot of things changed in the last three years.”