Infant mortality rate still high in U.S.

Over 22,000 babies in Washington and across the U.S. are dying every year either before, during or just after delivery. The infant mortality rate in this country is 5.8 per 1,000 births, and though it has been declining over the decades, it is still higher than the rate found in other developed countries like Spain, Hungary, Cuba and Japan.

In fact, the U.S. is ranked 33rd among the 36 wealthy nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development when it comes to infant mortality. In addition, the majority of infants in the U.S. die because of factors that were identified before or during delivery. Some 11,000 infants, about 49%, die because of issues that arose during pregnancy. Factors like pre-term delivery and low birth weight raise the risk for death.

An estimated 4,580 infants, 20.5%, die from congenital birth defects caused by chromosome problems. One such defect is anencephaly, or the absence of a major portion of the brain and skull. Another is spina bifida, or a neural tube defect that leads to an improperly formed spine and spinal cord.

In rare cases, infant death is linked to maternal complications like the premature rupture of membranes. Experts have also found that black, Native American and Hispanic mothers are more likely than white mothers to lose their child due to complications surrounding the birth.

Some cases of infant death or injury involve the negligence of the doctors and nurses present during the delivery. For example, doctors may use forceps and vacuums too forcefully, injuring the baby. Parents who believe they have a valid case under birth injury law may want to consult an attorney. The attorney might hire third parties to investigate the incident and gather proof against the defendant. He or she may then be able to negotiate for a settlement covering medical expenses and other losses.

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