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Infant mortality rate is an important measure of a nation's health and a worldwide indicator of health status and social well-being. It is the number of resident infant deaths occurring in a given infant age group in a given year per 1,000 resident live births in the same year.

Overall, congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities are the leading cause of infant death (20.1% of deaths). Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight are second, making up 16.6% of deaths. However, it is important to keep in mind that cause of death varies over the first year of life, and combining all causes during the first year of life obscures the importance of sudden infant death syndrome as the leading cause of death in the postneonatal period.

Risk factors include: congenital abnormalities, prematurity, low birth weight, and air pollution in the form of particulate matter. Risk factors that may increase a woman's chance of fetal loss include: pre-pregnancy obesity, lower socio-economic status, older age, and exposure to chemicals during pregnancy.

It is important for all women of reproductive age to adopt healthy behaviors such as:
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke, (external Web site).
  • Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • See your health care provider for a medical check-up before pregnancy.
  • Work with your health care provider to control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Talk with your health care provider about taking any medications.
  • Get prenatal care early, as soon as you think you may be pregnant, and throughout the pregnancy.
  • Discuss concerns during pregnancy with your health care provider, and seek medical attention for any warning signs or symptoms of preterm labor.
  • Take a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid, starting before and throughout pregnancy.
  • Learn about the quality of the water you drink.
  • Learn about the quality of the air you breathe.
  • Learn about the quality of the food you eat.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and weight.
  • Prevent injuries and consider the safety of your home and family (e.g., wear seat belt, take CPR, install and test smoke alarms).