Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Fetal Deaths – United States, 2015-2017

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Sep 18;69(37):1277-1282. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6937a1.


The spontaneous death or loss of a fetus during pregnancy is termed a fetal death. In the United States, national data on fetal deaths are available for losses at ≥20 weeks’ gestation.* Deaths occurring during this period of pregnancy are commonly known as stillbirths. In 2017, approximately 23,000 fetal deaths were reported in the United States (1). Racial/ethnic disparities exist in the fetal mortality rate; however, much of the known disparity in fetal deaths is unexplained (2). CDC analyzed 2015-2017 U.S. fetal death report data and found that non-Hispanic Black (Black) women had more than twice the fetal mortality rate compared with non-Hispanic White (White) women and Hispanic women. Fetal mortality rates also varied by maternal state of residence. Cause of death analyses were conducted for jurisdictions where >50% of reports had a cause of death specified. Still, even in these jurisdictions, approximately 31% of fetal deaths had no cause of death reported on a fetal death report. There were differences by race and Hispanic origin in causes of death, with Black women having three times the rate of fetal deaths because of maternal complications compared with White women. The disparities suggest opportunities for prevention to reduce the U.S. fetal mortality rate. Improved documentation of cause of death on fetal death reports might help identify preventable causes and guide prevention efforts.

PMID:32941410 | DOI:10.15585/mmwr.mm6937a1