What Is Infant Mortality Rate? - Definition, Causes & History

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  • 0:01 What Is the Infant…
  • 0:51 Causes
  • 2:15 History
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Carpenter

Kimberly has an undergraduate degree in Lab Sciences and a Master's degree in Education.

This lesson will define infant mortality rate, describe common causes of infant mortality, and provide a short history of infant mortality in the United States from the early 1900s through present day.

What Is Infant Mortality Rate?

One of the most terrifying experiences in a new parent's life is to put your sleeping infant to bed and return a few hours later to find him not breathing. Sadly, this happens to many new parents in the United States and across the world due to a combination of circumstances. The definition of infant mortality rate is simply the number of infant deaths in a single year out of every 1,000 live births that year.

In the United States, there are approximately 25,000 infants that die every year before celebrating their first birthday. Experts use the number of infant deaths as a measure of a nation's health and as a basis to determine how effective various factors such as vitamin intake and prenatal care affect an infant for many months after he or she is born.


While most infants are progressively becoming healthier and larger every single day, there are some who will succumb to an unknown illness, and death is the result. Unfortunately, we do not know the reason for every infant death. We do know several of the main causes, and these can be addressed to ensure every possible factor has been taken into consideration if your infant suffers from one of these common causes.

If you have an infant born with a serious birth defect, there is often nothing that can be done to cure this fatal situation. Unfortunately, not every birth defect may be detected before a baby is born; however, we have come a long way as a scientific community in regards to prenatal screening. Many birth defects can now be detected before birth, and this helps physicians treat them appropriately.

Also, babies born too early are often underweight, and this leads to an infant struggling during the most critical moments of his or her life. There may also be complications during the pregnancy or delivery that causes an injury to the baby that cannot be repaired.

Last of all, infants can succumb to SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is a condition where the infant ceases to breathe for completely unknown reasons, and death will occur if a parent is unable to realize the problem as soon as the breathing stops.

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