Why the US Infant Mortality Rate is So High

In case you hadn’t heard, the US has the second highest infant mortality rate among the developed nations. If you’re thinking our health care system stinks and that’s why so many babies are dying. . .think again. While certainly universal access to health care (or lack thereof) does have an influence on whether or not mothers get adequate prenatal care, the reality is that the United States pushes the boundaries on what can be done in both fertility and neonatal medicine.

Just to be clear: infant mortality means that a baby was outside of the womb, took at least one breath and then stopped breathing or its heart stopped beating. Miscarriages late in pregnancy are still births or miscarriages but are not part of the infant mortality statistic.

Pushing the Envelope on Viability

One reason as to why so many babies are dying is that doctors are saving more premature babies with advanced technologies. But these super preemies don’t always live. The younger an infant is born and the less it weighs, the more likely it is to die. These precious little angels also contribute to the infant mortality rate. But many countries that ‘beat’ the United States on the list, won’t use ‘heroic measures’ to save super preemies.

Pushing the Envelope on Fertility

Something that is interesting is that the United States also has the highest rate of super twins. (Super twins are triplets, quads or more!) Super twins do happen naturally but it is very rare. Most triplets, quads and all quintuplets or sextuplets these days are born via fertility treatments. However, super twin pregnancies are very risky and always result in premature babies–who are more likely to die.

Cut the Docs Some Slack

I’m definitely not saying that health care couldn’t use an overhaul in the United States. But in fairness, if we’re going to talk about the infant mortality rate being so high for such a developed nation, then we also need to talk about all the babies that were saved that frankly, had they been born elsewhere–may not have even been given the chance to live.

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