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Mothers' health taking toll on infant health, mortality rates.

Women's deteriorating health is a leading reason infant mortality rates have stalled in the United States since 2000, according to a June report from Trust for America's Health.

After 40 years of declines, infant mortality rates have remained relatively stable since 2000, and at the same time American women's health has been worsening due to widespread chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

The report found that about 30 percent of women who give birth have some form of pregnancy complication, with such health problems costing the United States a least $26.2 billion in 2005. Premature births and low birthweights are often linked to health issues in the mother, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity.

The report pointed out that while efforts to improve birth outcomes have traditionally focused on prenatal and birth care, "increasing evidence shows that how healthy a woman is even before she becomes pregnant has a great impact on the health of the baby and whether there is an increased risk for infant death or birth defects."

From 1960 to 1980, infant mortality rates in the United States dropped from 26 of every 1,000 live births to 12.6. From 1980 to 2000, the number dropped to 6.9 per 1,000 live births, but the number has stagnated since then.

The report called for enhancing Medicaid policies to allow insurance benefits to follow women for 24 months after they give birth and expanding programs that provide primary care and other services to women of childbearing age.

The report, "Healthy Women, Healthy Babies," is available at
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Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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