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Black fetal mortality fell but is still nearly double national average

A new report published by the CDC looks into fetal mortality rates in the U.S.
Black fetal mortality fell but is still nearly double national average
Posted at 8:31 PM, Jul 26, 2023

A new report detailing fetal mortality rates points to a familiar picture: Fetal mortality rates for Black women are still disproportionately high.

The new National Vital Statistics System data published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center Wednesday looked into 2021 fetal mortality rates in the U.S. This refers to the rate of fetus deaths occurring at or after 20 weeks of gestation, which occur in only 1% of all U.S. pregnancies.

Since 2020 there has been an increase of about 1% more fetal deaths, with 21,105 in 2021 compared to 20,854 in 2020. The fetal mortality rate, however, was essentially unchanged from the year prior, with 5.73 fetal deaths per 1,000 live births.

But when looking at trends in fetal mortality by race, there's a more complicated story: The report found no significant changes in fetal mortality rates for any race or origin other than for Black women

Within the year studied, Black fetal mortality rates declined 4%, from 10.34 deaths per 1,000 live births to 9.89. And although this decline is good news, this new standing rate is still almost double the national average rate of 5.73. 

SEE MORE: Hospitals launch new initiative to curb high maternal mortality rates

Multiple reports have shown these unbalanced numbers don't just apply to the babies, but to the mothers, too.

A recent investigation from The Associated Press found Black women have the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, at nearly three times that of White women. Many Black women also say they feel disrespected by their doctors.

There are multiple factors that can contribute to these disparities, the CDC says, such as a lack of quality health care, chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias.

It could also be that the problem is rooted deep in the U.S., as its maternal mortality rate is the highest of any high-income country.

While there hasn't been a clear solution to solving the issue, the new report says overall, the nation's total fetal mortality rate has declined 23% since 1990. But since 2019, it's remained essentially stable.

The report also notes fetal mortality is often overlooked by those focused on infant mortality, though it also says less knowledge and prevention strategies play a part, too. 

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