If you picked up a U.S. Vital Statistics edition in say 1940, you’d notice an emphasis on stillbirth statistics in the maternal and child health sections. Today while infant mortality (rather than stillbirths) receives more attention as a sentinel indicator of maternal and child health, it’s still significant. You may recall reading in a previous blog about Arizona’s historic low infant mortality rate in 2009 (5.9 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births). Unfortunately the rate of stillbirth in 2009 (5.5 per 1,000) remained unchanged. In fact, the total number of stillbirths in 2009 nearly equaled the total number of infant deaths.
Smoking remains the leading known behavioral cause of stillbirth. Not smoking at all is the best, but quitting early in the first trimester reduces the risk to baseline. The Incidence and Reported Causes of Stillbirth in Arizona is produced annually by our Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health and is a good resource for further information about stillbirth in Arizona. The bottom line is that preconception health remains the most promising strategy we have to reduce both stillbirth and infant mortality in Arizona. For more information, you can access the “Every Woman Arizona” educational materials- which promote health before pregnancy.