Infant deaths in the United States are largely driven by premature and low birth weight deliveries, he added. In fact, in 2006, 54 percent of all infant deaths were among the 2 percent of infants born at less than 32 weeks of gestation.
However, death rates for late-preterm infants, those born at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation, were still three times those for infants born at term, the report states.
The three leading causes of infant mortality are congenital malformations, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome. Together these accounted for 46 percent of all infant deaths. In 2006, 36.1 percent of infant deaths were due to preterm delivery.
Among black women the rate of these deaths was 3.4 times higher than that of Puerto Rican women and 84 percent higher than that of white women, the researchers found.
It's too early to know if the drop in infant mortality is a trend, Mathews said. "We had actually seen an increase to 2005," he noted. "It's one year. We don't get a trend out of one year."
Mathews noted that for a number of years, the infant mortality rate in the United States has been just under seven deaths for every 1,000 births.
These data are four years old, Mathews noted. But, when more current data will be available isn't known, he said.
Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, said that "we are encouraged by a 3 percent drop in the rate of infant mortality, but it's nothing to write home about yet."
Howse added, "What remains concerning is when you compare the rate of infant mortality in the United States to the 32 other industrialized countries, we still rank very low. It's very disquieting for rates of infant mortality in our country to still be as high as they are."
All rights reserved