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Matern Child Health J. 2011 Nov;15(8):1135-42. doi: 10.1007/s10995-010-0665-9.

Racial and ethnic variations in temporal changes in fetal deaths and first day infant deaths.

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  • 1Department of Health Care Organization and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, RPHB 330, 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294-0022, USA.


The purpose was to examine changes in overall and gestational age-specific proportions and rates of fetal death, first day death (<24 h), and combined fetal-first day death from 1990-1991 to 2001-2002. Changes were considered by race/ethnicity. Deliveries to U.S. white, black, and Hispanic mothers were selected from the NCHS linked live birth-infant death cohort and fetal deaths files (1990-1991 and 2001-2002). There was an overall improvement in mortality, but improvements were not uniform across all racial/ethnic groups or by gestational age. The fetal mortality rate among whites and Hispanics declined 4.32 and 12.82 percent, respectively. For blacks, the fetal mortality rate increased 4.06 percent between 1990-1991 and 2001-2002. Despite overall reductions in perinatal and <24 h mortality, black rates in all outcomes maintained a twofold disparity. The overall black: white fetal mortality rate ratio increased from 2.17 to 2.36 over time. The gestational age-specific black: white combined fetal-first day mortality rate ratios were greater than 1 at later gestational ages. In some cases, the ratio increased over time, indicating that despite reductions, fetal mortality did not decline uniformly among whites and blacks at term and post-term. Despite overall improvements in fetal, first day, and combined fetal-first day mortality, racial disparities persisted and in some cases widened. This study identifies lack of improvements in fetal death in the black population compared to the white or Hispanic population at later gestational ages.

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