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Semin Perinatol. 2002 Feb;26(1):3-11.

The national fetal death file.

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Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD 20782, USA.


The most comprehensive source of US data on fetal deaths of 20 gestational weeks or greater is available through the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). The NVSS is a collaborative effort between the independent reporting areas (the individual States and the territories), and the federal government or its agent, the Centers for Disease Control, and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The federal government has no authority to register vital events. The registration of births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, and divorces is solely a state responsibility. However, NCHS is mandated by law to produce national data based on vital events. To promote the uniformity necessary to create a national file from this decentralized system, NCHS attempts to influence state systems via the development of certain standards, primarily, The Model State Vital Statistics Act and Regulations (The Model Law), and the Standard Certificates and Reports. The Model Law definitions for live birth, fetal death and induced termination of pregnancy are based on international standards set by The World Health Organization. All states have definitions of fetal death consistent with the Model Law. The Model Law also recommends reporting requirements for fetal death, but state requirements vary. This variation results in differences in reporting of fetal deaths among areas. Other limitations to the national fetal death file include: the under-reporting of fetal deaths incidence, higher than acceptable levels of missing data for some items, and the accuracy of the data reported. Also of concern is the potential misclassification of fetal deaths and short-lived live births. These limitations are amenable to improvement. The upcoming revision of the US Standard Report of Fetal Death addresses these issues and offers an opportunity to strengthen the quality of fetal death data. The development of worksheets, detailed specifications and instruction manuals, and a reformatted cause of death section should importantly enhance the quality of national fetal death file and ultimately reduce the incidence of these tragic events.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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