Objectives: To present an analysis of the infant mortality trends and causes of death in France from the beginning of the 1950s, neonatal (0-27 days) and post-neonatal mortality (27-364 days) being considered separately.
Material and methods: We used the data from the national registries of births computed by INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Surveys) and of causes of deaths computed by Inserm (National Institute of Health and Medical Research). We analysed the evolution of the infant death rates from 1950 to 1997, the overall mortality for males and the percentages of causes of death at three different periods.
Results: Mortality has changed according to neonatal or post-neonatal ages. A constant improvement was recorded for neonatal mortality up to 1995 (2.9 per 1,000), while there was a stagnation for post-neonatal mortality between 1979 and 1993, followed by a sharp decrease (2.0 per 1,000 in 1995). During the neonatal age the main causes of death are conditions generated in the neonatal period and congenital abnormalities, both decreasing regularly; during the post-neonatal age the main cause is sudden infant death syndrome, which fell dramatically during the last four years.
Conclusion: Several factors related to medical care, nursing and type of registration are contributing simultaneously to the important variations in mortality found in our results.