Fetal and early neonatal death: Do the determinants vary?
Purpose: To compare the determinants and distribution of fetal and early neonatal deaths in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Background: Much attention is devoted to reducing the infant mortality rate which was declining up until 2002. The recent rise was parsed and found to stem from an increase in deaths during the early neonatal period. Fetal deaths are not well understood and are not routinely included when evaluating infant mortality. Methods: Using data collected from 2001 to 2006 fetal death and linked infant birth and death certificates by the Virginia Department of Health, crude mortality rates and leading causes of death were calculated for fetal and early neonatal mortality. Rates were calculated for each period of death by locality and mapped to determine if the distribution differed. Logistic regression was also used to evaluate sociodemographic and pregnancy risk factors and chi-square analyses were used to determine if the determinants varied significantly by timing of death outcome. Results: During the study period, the fetal death rate was 5.4 per 1,000 fetal deaths plus live births, the early neonatal death rate was 2.5 deaths per 1,000 live births and perinatal mortality rate was 7.9 deaths per 1,000 fetal deaths plus live births. Trends over time, gestational age specific mortality, geographic distribution, cause of death and many determinants were comparable between both death periods. Extremely low birth weight was the most significant risk factor for early neonatal death (OR = 1747.06). Congenital anomalies of the child were the leading predictor of fetal death (OR = 26.24, 95% CI: 19.62, 35.10) and second highest for early neonatal death (OR = 52.26, 95% CI: 35.21, 77.56). Conclusions: Because of the similarities in geographic distribution, sociodemographic factors, pregnancy risk factors and causes of death, analyzing neonatal and infant mortality rates in isolation from fetal deaths does not accurately depict the burden of adverse pregnancy outcomes.