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Curr Epidemiol Rep. 2017;4(2):73-82. doi: 10.1007/s40471-017-0101-4. Epub 2017 Apr 17.

Methodological Challenges in International Comparisons of Perinatal Mortality.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia and the Children's and Women's Hospital and Health Centre of British Columbia, Room C403, Women's Hospital of British Columbia, 4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1 Canada.
Reproductive Epidemiology Research Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Several prestigious agencies routinely rank countries based on crude perinatal and infant mortality rates, while more recently, international neonatal networks have begun comparing neonatal mortality and morbidity rates among very preterm and very low-birth-weight infants. We discuss the methodologic challenges that compromise such comparisons and potential remedies.


Crude perinatal mortality rates are biased by international variations in birth registration, especially at the borderline of viability. Such bias is demonstrated by significant differences in crude versus birth weight- and gestational age-specific comparisons of perinatal mortality. Comparisons of neonatal mortality among very preterm and very low-birth-weight infants are plagued by incorrect denominators, and this leads to paradoxical findings.


A lack of standardization with regard to birth registration and inadequate appreciation of the methods for calculating gestational age-specific mortality rates are responsible for biasing international comparisons of perinatal mortality.


Birth weight; Gestational age; International; Methods; Perinatal mortality

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