Study: Stillbirths in the United States High, But Regionally Different

Study: Stillbirths in the United States High, But Regionally Different

A new study finds that stillbirths in the United States are on the rise, and a new set of findings reveals disparities in pregnancy and stillbirth outcomes across states.

In all, there were 2,068,461 births in 2017, a 2.1 percent increase from the year before. The rate of stillbirth in the United States in 2017 was 6.2 per 1,000 live births, a 3.2 percent increase from 2016.

However, there were significant increases in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington and New York — and there were drops in many other states. For instance, New Jersey experienced a decrease in stillbirths from 9.1 per 1,000 live births in 2015 to 8.5 per 1,000 live births in 2016 to 7.3 per 1,000 live births in 2017.

Columbia University researchers analyzed national and state-specific patterns in pregnancy and stillbirths in 2017.

They found that the rate of pregnancy-related stillbirths increased most in New England (3.8 percent) and Midwest (3.7 percent). The rest of the country had little change in pregnancy-related stillbirths, but increases in the South, the West and the Mountain West — especially Arizona and Idaho — were especially large.

If this pattern continues, Columbia researchers say, stillbirths will continue to increase over the next five years, from 6.2 in 2017 to 6.9 in 2022.

“The biggest increase is in states where there is already a lot of social and socioeconomic stress,” said lead study author Dr. Sharon Eubanks, senior research associate at Columbia University Medical Center. “There’s nothing really particular that we could pinpoint as to why this is occurring.”

The researchers suggest the increase is a response to higher rates of maternal obesity and diabetes. These conditions can damage a woman’s blood vessels and kidneys, which can cause an increased risk of stillbirth and complications in pregnancy, including cesarean sections.

Stillbirths have shown to increase with socioeconomic status and the amount of stress and anxiety a woman experiences.

“Maternal mortality rates are higher with each increase in socioeconomic status,” Eubanks said. “If we focus our preventative efforts on decreasing stress, our health outcomes will improve.”

This study found that stillbirths in the United States are higher for white and Latino women than black women. For instance, those who live in Mississippi and Louisiana have the highest stillbirth rates — 21 and 20 per 1,000 live births, respectively.

The decline in one-punch birth-control pills used in pregnancy in the last two decades has been shown to lower the rate of low birth-weight babies. But there may be another contributing factor.

“Stress might also be increasing with our increased use of birth control pills, and our increased stress will likely be associated with stillbirth,” Eubanks said.

This article was written by Annie Rice of the Health News Florida blog.

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