The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported the startling news that the U.S. infant mortality rate increased in 2002 for the first time since 1958. An increase in premature births was the leading cause.
Instead of revealing a weakness in the health care system, however, the CDC statistics suggest that as strange as it sounds, advances in medical technology and capabilities are behind the increase.
Group health agents and brokers need to understand what is happening so that they can help clients develop strategies for improving the health of mothers and babies and reducing the costs associated with preterm births.
One key detail is the fact that the death rate in 2002 for preterm infants was 15 times that of term infants.
Improvements in neonatal medicine and assisted reproductive technologies mean that babies born after 23 weeks to 25 weeks of gestation, who once would have died soon after delivery, are now counted as high-risk infants.
Why are premature births increasing?
Besides technology and treatment advances, there are other factors that contribute to an increase in premature births:
o Infertility. According to an American Society for Reproductive Medicine study released in January 2005, 1 in 10 American couples is infertile, and about 100,000 pregnancy attempts are made each year using “in vitro fertilization.” With IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies there is a greater possibility of multiple births, and the main risk factor with multiple births is prematurity.