According to a shocking report from the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. ranks 27th in the world for infant mortality. A baby in the U.S. is three times more likely to die in his or her first year of life than a baby born in Japan or Finland.
The national rate of infant deaths is 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. In Alabama, it’s 8.7; in Mississippi, it’s 9.6. Put into perspective, Alabama’s infant mortality rate ranks behind Lebanon’s, and Mississippi has the same infant death rate as Botswana or Bahrain. Every country, not just the U.S., can take seven steps to ensure that human infants live past their first year.
1. Improve Access to Quality Prenatal Care
Mothers who don’t receive prenatal care are three times more likely to die in childbirth than women who do receive prenatal care. Babies born to mothers who do not receive prenatal care are five times as likely to die and three times more likely to have low birth weight. One of the biggest reasons American mothers don’t receive prenatal care is that they have no health insurance or inadequate health insurance.
Many states are working to ensure that women who do receive care have access to treatment of the highest quality. New York and New Jersey are requiring all nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree within 10 years of becoming registered.
2. Reduce Teen Pregnancy Rates
As more sex educators and parents have provided teens with access to contraception, teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have declined significantly. However, one in eight U.S. females gives birth before her 20th birthday, and one in six births to 15 to 19-year-old mothers are to girls who have already had a baby. Babies born to teen mothers are more likely to experience low birth weight and other serious complications. Worldwide, 100 of every 1,000 infants born to teen mothers will die during their first year of life.
3. Decrease the Number of Preterm Births
Researchers from the World Health Organization reviewed data from 7,993 pregnancies around the world and found that 63 percent of pregnancies that had an outcome of early infant death or stillbirth happened occurred in infants born preterm. Both preterm labor and high blood pressure in mothers (preeclampsia) accounted for over half of these deaths. Good prenatal care is essential to preventing preterm births. Also, mothers need access to adequate nutrition.
4. Encourage Breastfeeding
Infants who breastfeed are less likely to die from communicable illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea, and they’re also more likely to recover quickly after an illness. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, American infants who breastfeed are 20 percent less likely to die during their first year of life. Women need support for breastfeeding, including payment for visits from lactation consultants, as well as generous maternity leave and flexible work policies that allow them to breastfeed their children.
5. Decrease SIDS Risk Factors
Despite knowing that soft bedding increases the risk of SIDS, over half of infants are still placed into cribs with loose bedding and soft objects. In addition to following recommendations, such as putting babies to sleep on their backs and removing loose bedding from cribs, parents can prevent SIDS by reducing the baby’s exposure to secondhand smoke.
6. Eliminate Environmental Hazards
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 75 percent of infant carseats aren’t properly installed. Parents should contact their local police departments before their infants are born and ask for consultation about how to properly install a carseat. Many police departments also offer carseat checks at local malls and other places within their communities several times throughout the year.
7. Improve Parent Self-Care
If parents don’t take care of themselves, they can’t adequately care for their babies. Parents who are exhausted and who manage their stress poorly are more likely to lose control when faced with constant crying and sleep deprivation, resulting in infant deaths from shaken baby syndrome. They’re also more likely to commit negligent offenses, such as leaving an infant in a hot car.
Decreasing infant mortality requires commitment — and funding — from individuals, communities, health care providers, and their governments. It’s time to aggressively address infant mortality not only in the U.S. but also all over the world.
Article Submitted By Community Writer.