Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Federal researchers announced this week that the American infant mortality rate, which is used as a way to judge our overall health, dropped in 2010, the last year it was measured. But the drop wasn’t as sharp as researchers had hoped, as NBC News reports:
Birth defects and low birth weight were the two leading causes of newborn death, the survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found. And babies born to teenage mothers were the most likely to weigh too little, the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
They report that the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.14 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 2010, which is just 4 percent lower than the rate of 6.39 in 2009. This adds up to 24,572 babies who died at or around birth in 2010.
The United States may be one of the richest countries in the world, but has a very high rate of infant mortality compared to other wealthy countries — and compared even to some not-so-rich countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) consistently finds the U.S. near the bottom of its list of 34-member countries on this measure.
The U.S. infant mortality rate is well above the OECD average of four deaths per 1,000. In Iceland, just 1.6 babies out of every 1,000 die and in Sweden, Japan, and Finland, it’s around two per 100,000.
In January of this year, the Institute of Medicine had released data showing the U.S. infant mortality rate was more than double that of many other developed countries.
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Monday, September 30th, 2013
New moms are increasingly shortening their maternity leaves, citing financial and personal pressures as reasons for going back to work within weeks of giving birth. Analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that as many as half of new mothers are shortening their leaves by half. More from Today.com:
About two-thirds of U.S. women are employed during pregnancy and about 70 percent of them report taking some time off, according to most recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The average maternity leave in the U.S. is about 10 weeks, but about half of new moms took at least five weeks, with about a quarter taking nine weeks or more, figures showed.
But a closer look shows that 16 percent of new moms took only one to four weeks away from work after the birth of a child — and 33 percent took no formal time off at all, returning to job duty almost immediately.
That means more women are coping with pregnancy-weary bodies, the demands of a newborn and the demands of a boss — all before the “Welcome, Baby” flowers have wilted on the bedside table.
Research has shown that shorter leaves can interfere with recommended breastfeeding duration and may contribute to higher rates of depression among new moms.
Image: Working mom, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 23rd, 2013
A report by the National Center for Health Statistics reveals that circumcisions of newborn boys in U.S. hospitals have dropped 6 percentage points over the last 30 years, from 64.5 percent in 1979 to 58.3 percent in 2010. The sharpest declines took place in Western states, Reuters reports. The federal analysis shows that circumcision rates have risen and fallen over the years, possibly in response to changing advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Last year the academy revised its policy on circumcision, saying that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.
The analysis didn’t include circumcisions performed outside the hospital in religious ceremonies, for example, or those performed when a boy is older.
Here are further details from USA Today:
One factor that may account for the overall decline in hospital-based circumcisions may be the decreased time babies now spend in the hospital, says pediatrician Douglas Diekema of the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“Often they’re going home within 24 hours, so in some places, these procedures are increasingly being done by the pediatrician during the follow-up period in the doctor’s office or clinic as opposed to the hospital,” Diekema says.
The steep decline in the West may be related to higher rates of immigrants from countries where circumcision is less common, he says.
Recent research suggests circumcision does “help prevent certain kinds of infections,” says pediatrics group president Thomas McInerny. In particular, “there is some evidence that the cells that make up the inner surface of the foreskin may provide an optimal target for the HIV virus.” Research also shows that circumcised males have a lower risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer, he says.
Complications associated with circumcisions are rare, and include minor bleeding, local infection and pain, says Diekema, but those factors can be easily treated.
A cost study reported last year in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine said falling infant circumcision rates in the U.S. could end up costing the country billions of health care dollars when men and their female partners develop AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections and cancers that could have been prevented.
The health benefits evidence was not so strong that the AAP felt compelled to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys, says McInerny. “We wanted to give parents the information as we understand it from the research and let them make the decision.”
Image: Newborn boy, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 15th, 2013
With many women waiting to get married and have children, the number of couples who pursue medical treatments to become pregnant seems to be growing exponentially. But new data from federal researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the national infertility rate has remained virtually unchanged for the past 20 years. More from NBC News:
“Infertility rates have come down a little bit,” says Dr. Anjani Chandra, researcher at the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That surprises people because they think it is going up. In fact, it really hasn’t been the case.”
Chandra and colleagues looked at data from the National Survey on Family Growth, in which more than 22,000 people were interviewed face to face between 2006 and 2010. The survey was also done in 1982 and 2002.
The surveys showed that 8.5 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 were infertile in 1982 – defined as having been married and having unprotected sex for 12 months without becoming pregnant. This fell to 6 percent of the same age group, married or unmarried, in 2006-2010.
When they added in women who could finally get pregnant but who miscarried before giving birth, the number rose to 11 percent
“Contrary to popular perceptions based on infertility service use and media coverage about biological clocks, we still don’t see that,” Chandra told NBC News.
It hasn’t changed for men, either.
“Some form of infertility … was reported by 9.4 percent of men aged 15–44 and 12 percent of men aged 25–44 in 2006–2010, similar to levels seen in 2002,” Chandra’s team writes in the report.
One obvious answer would seem to be increased use of fertility treatments. Since 1982, in vitro fertilization or IVF has been perfected, and more than 163,000 treatments were done in 2011 – just about double the number done a decade before. Federal law requires doctors and clinics to report fertility treatments and success rates to the CDC.
But this data doesn’t show whether 163,000 separate people were treated, and the new statistics suggest that in fact more people aren’t being treated. Instead, individuals may be undergoing more treatments in the same year, says Chandra.
That’s because the percentage of women who have ever gotten fertility services was the same in 2006-2010 as compared to 2002 – 11.9 percent in both times.
Dr. Richard Reindollar of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine said the findings were encouraging.
“Even though the ages at which women in the United States have their children have been increasing since 1995, the percentage of the population suffering from infertility or impaired fecundity has not increased,” Reindollar said in a statement.
Image: Fertility lab, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
A rising number of schoolchildren are receiving diagnoses of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new data from the National Center for Health Statistics has found, but the findings don’t necessarily reflect a rise in the prevalence of autism. Two percent of U.S. schoolkids, or about 1 million children, report having received autism diagnoses. More from NBC News:
It’s a large increase since the last report but experts stress it doesn’t necessarily mean more children are developing autism.
Instead, the numbers suggests that more children are being diagnosed as they get older – probably because of many factors, including increased awareness and more services both to diagnose children and help them, the researchers said.
“Our findings suggest that the increase in prevalence may be due to increased recognition of autism spectrum disorders in recent years, especially when the symptoms were mild,” Stephen Blumberg of the National Center for Health Statistics, which published the report, said in a telephone interview.
“Parents are more aware. Professionals are more aware. There may be more access to diagnostic services.”
Autism describes a range of conditions and disorders – some of which a few years ago were not even recognized as conditions. It can range from the very mild social awkwardness seen in some cases of Asperger’s syndrome, to severe and debilitating symptoms that prevent children from interacting in a normal way, prevent learning and often require medication. Some children with autism were classified as mentally retarded in years past, while others struggled quietly with no idea they could benefit from therapy.
Parents should not worry that something new has been happening to kids, says Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is monitoring autism in several ways. “We don’t want them to be frightened by the numbers. We want them to recognize that there are things they can do that make a difference in their child’s life,” she said.
Image: School girl, via Shutterstock
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