Infant Mortality Attributable to Birth Defects - United States, 2003-2017

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Jan 17;69(2):25-29. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6902a1.


Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, accounting for 20.6% of infant deaths in 2017 (1). Rates of infant mortality attributable to birth defects (IMBD) have generally declined since the 1970s (1-3). U.S. linked birth/infant death data from 2003-2017 were used to assess trends in IMBD. Overall, rates declined 10% during 2003-2017, but decreases varied by maternal and infant characteristics. During 2003-2017, IMBD rates decreased 4% for infants of Hispanic mothers, 11% for infants of non-Hispanic black (black) mothers, and 12% for infants of non-Hispanic white (white) mothers. In 2017, these rates were highest among infants of black mothers (13.3 per 10,000 live births) and were lowest among infants of white mothers (9.9). During 2003-2017, IMBD rates for infants who were born extremely preterm (20-27 completed gestational weeks), full term (39-40 weeks), and late term/postterm (41-44 weeks) declined 20%-29%; rates for moderate (32-33 weeks) and late preterm (34-36 weeks) infants increased 17%. Continued tracking of IMBD rates can help identify areas where efforts to reduce IMBD are needed, such as among infants born to black and Hispanic mothers and those born moderate and late preterm (32-36 weeks).

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Congenital Abnormalities / ethnology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / mortality*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / ethnology
  • Infant Mortality / trends*
  • Infant, Extremely Premature
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Postmature
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data