Infant Mortality Rate Rises In MD, Nation Sees 1st Spike In Decades


Increases in RSV and flu cases that packed pediatric emergency rooms last year may explain a national increase in infant mortality. See the data for Maryland. A stock photo of a baby is shown here. (Shutterstock)

Patch Regional Manager Deb Belt originally posted this story.

MARYLAND — The infant mortality rate in Maryland increased by 1 percent from 2021 to 2022, according to a new federal report released on Nov. 1 that shows the first increase in the U.S. infant mortality rate in two decades.

The national rate rose by 3 percent, to 5.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022, up from 5.44 per 1,000 the year before, according to the report from the National Center of Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infant mortality is the measure of how many babies die before they reach their first birthday. The number of babies born each year varies, so researchers instead calculate rates to better compare infant mortality over time.

Health officials in Maryland reported 409 infant deaths in 2021, compared with 415 in 2022. The infant mortality rate increased from 5.99 per live births in 2021 to 6.03 per live births last year.

Overall, 30 states saw at least a slight increase in infant mortality rates in 2022, but the spikes were statistically significant in four states — Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Texas, the report showed.

Dr. Eric Eichenwald, a Philadelphia-based neonatologist, called the new data “disturbing,” but told The Associated Press that experts at this point can only speculate as to why a statistic that has fallen for decades rose in 2022.

“It’s definitely concerning, given that it’s going in the opposite direction from what it has been,” Maria Thoma, a University of Maryland researcher who studies maternal and infant mortality, told the AP.

Historically, the U.S. infant mortality rate has been higher than in other high-income countries, which experts have attributed to poverty, inadequate prenatal care and other possibilities. But even so, the U.S. rate gradually improved because of medical advances and public health efforts.

An increase in RSV and flu infections last fall after two years of pandemic precautions that filled pediatric emergency rooms could potentially account for some of the increase, said Eichenwald, who chairs an American Academy of Pediatrics committee that writes guidelines for the medical care of newborns.

Though the increase may seem small, it’s the first statistically significant jump since 2001 and 2002, according to Danielle Ely, the report’s lead author. Experts were unable to establish if 2022 was a statistical blip, or the start of a longer-lasting trend.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

More News from Havre de Grace
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified