Maine's infant mortality rate increased in 2022
Infant mortality in the U.S. increased for the first time in two decades last year, according to a report released by the U.S. CDC last week. Maine's rate also increased.
In 2021, 60 babies in Maine died within a year of their birth. The following year, 77 babies died. That's an overall increase of 5 deaths per thousand births to more than 6. And it's the second time in roughly a decade that the infant mortality rate rose in Maine.
Dr. Alan Picarillo, a neonatologist at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital and chair of the Maine Maternal, Fetal, and Infant Review Panel, says it's difficult to know whether that signals a trend because Maine has such a small number of births.
"Even though statistically some people will say, 'Oh, it's just a one year blip, it's not statistically significant,' it's clinically significant and we continue to review all of the outcomes every singe year," he says.
The most common causes of infant death are preterm births and congenital anomalies.
"And that's what we see across the country and that's what we've seen in Maine for years," Picarillo says. "And even within those deaths, the vast majority of them were incredibly small, premature infants who passed away within the first seven days of age."
Picarillo says to reduce infant deaths, continued investment is needed to ensure equitable access to care and healthy pregnancies.