Fetal Death During Labor: An Epidemiologic Indicator of Level of Obstetric Care

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1985 Dec 1;153(7):721-7. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(85)90331-x.


The effect of level of perinatal care on rates of intrapartum fetal death was studied in births of infants weighing greater than 1000 gm in New York City in 1976 to 1978. With potential confounding by birth weight, gestational age, and several other variables controlled, intrapartum fetal death rates decreased as intensiveness of care increased. Compared with births in Level 3 maternity units (perinatal intensive care), births in Level 1 units (community hospitals) had a 61% excess risk of intrapartum fetal death (p less than 0.01) and births in Level 2 units (intermediate level of care) had a 35% excess risk (p = 0.06). The effect of hospital level on intrapartum fetal death rates could not be attributed to differences in the classification of fetal deaths during labor across hospital levels, since no compensatory differences in late antepartum fetal death rates were found. Our findings in a total population are compatible with several studies carried out in single hospitals that have reported declines in intrapartum fetal death rates, especially in births more closely attended during labor. Fetal deaths that occur in labor, as contrasted with fetal deaths occurring before labor, constitute a perinatal outcome that is especially sensitive to level of obstetric care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology*
  • Fetal Monitoring
  • Gestational Age
  • Hospital Departments / standards
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • New York City
  • Perinatology / standards*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / standards*
  • Risk