(HealthDay News) — More babies are being born at full term, resulting in fewer infant deaths, according to a November data brief published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). However, the number of fetal deaths – defined in this report as deaths of fetuses at ≥20 weeks’ gestation – stayed about the same from 2006–2012.

According to the report, the rate of fetal deaths among whites in 2012 was 4.91 deaths per 1,000 fetuses. From 2006–2012, the rate among blacks was 10.67 deaths per 1,000 fetuses, and for Hispanics the rate was 5.33 per 1,000 fetuses. For infant deaths, the largest drop was seen among black women, where the rate dropped 8%, to 10.8 deaths per 1,000 births in 2011.

The declines in infant deaths varied by state, the researchers found. Between 2005–2006 and between 2010–2011, the infant death rate dropped ≥10% in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The infant death rate fell <10% in California, Maryland and Texas. Changes in the rest of the states and the District of Columbia were not statistically significant. From 2010–2011, the infant death rate ranged from 3.65 per 1,000 births in Vermont to a high of 8.91 per 1,000 births in Mississippi. Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Vermont had rates below five deaths per 1,000 births. Alabama, Delaware, and Mississippi, and the District of Columbia, however, had rates higher than eight deaths per 1,000 births.

“Although the fetal death rate has remained essentially unchanged from 2006–2012, the continued decline in infant deaths is noteworthy,” study author Elizabeth Gregory, MPH, a health statistician at the NCHS, told HealthDay.

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