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Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Sep 15;156(6):493-7.

Analysis of perinatal mortality and its components: time for a change?

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Since the midtwentieth century, stillbirths (late fetal deaths) and early neonatal deaths have often been combined into a single category of "perinatal" deaths. In the past, such a combination was justified by the fact that asphyxia was a common cause of death during labor (intrapartum stillbirth) and shortly after birth and by geographic and temporal differences in classification of livebirths versus stillbirths. In more recent years, however, the etiologic determinants have diverged sharply, with many fewer early neonatal deaths caused by asphyxia and relatively many more caused by congenital anomalies. Moreover, the increasingly common stratification of pregnancy outcome measures by gestational age or birth weight leads to the use of an inappropriate denominator (total livebirths plus stillbirths within each gestational age or birth weight category) for denoting risk for the stillbirth component, because all unborn fetuses (including the majority of those not born within the specified gestational age or birth weight range) are at risk of being stillborn in that range. The authors suggest that, whenever possible, stillbirths and early neonatal deaths should be reported separately, with gestational age-specific risks of stillbirth based on all fetuses at risk, and that antepartum and intrapartum stillbirths be reported separately.

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