A neonatal death certificate was introduced in France in 1997. It provides detailed data on the causes of death and the characteristics of newborn, birth and parents. Our aim was to describe the new results of this certificate.
Method: All deaths in 1999 in the first 27 days of life were included (N=2036). Certificates were analysed using the usual process, especially following the International Classification of Diseases.
Results: The neonatal death certificate was used for 87% of deaths. The proportion of documented items was 96% for gestational age and birthweight, 87% for maternal age and parity and 70% for maternal occupation. Almost three quarters of the deaths occurred in the first 6 days (36.9% in the first 24 hours and 35.1% between one and six days). 30.5% of the died infants were born before 27 weeks of gestation and 36.5% between 27 and 36 weeks. A shift in medical care was observed at 26 weeks, with an increase in caesarean sections before labour and newborn referrals. In all, 63.3% of neonatal deaths were due to perinatal conditions, and 27.9% to congenital anomalies. The proportion of deaths explained by congenital anomalies was higher for longer gestational age: 14% of deaths between 25 and 28 weeks of gestation vs 38 to 43% between 33 and 42 weeks.
Conclusion: The neonatal death certificate was well accepted; however the data on detailed causes of death and parent's characteristics were insufficient. Analysis of the circumstances and the causes of death is facilitated with the neonatal death certificate and it will be developped in the future.