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Infant death is hard to understand. It can bring anger, pain, sadness, and confusion. And, experts still don't understand all the causes of infant death. Some of the causes include:
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Born preterm or with low birth weight
- Birth defects
- Problems during pregnancy
American Indians and Alaska Natives have the second highest infant death rate in the United States. Native babies have the highest rates of SIDS, and they are 30 percent more likely to die due to complications related to low birth weight or birth defects than non-Hispanic White babies.
Although we don't always know the reasons why some babies die, we do know steps a woman can take to lower her baby's risk of health problems and infant death. These steps begin before you even become pregnant. Before pregnancy, talk to your doctor about:
- Family planning and birth control. The chances of having a safe pregnancy and healthy baby are best when pregnancy is planned.
- Taking folic acid. All women who can become pregnant need 400–800 micrograms of folic acid every day.
- Vaccines (shots) or tests you may need.
- Managing any health conditions you may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Ways to improve your overall health.
- Medicines you use, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal drugs and supplements.
- How to avoid illness.
- Health problems that run in your or your partner's family.
- Problems you have had with prior pregnancies.
Women in every state can get help paying for prenatal care. Call 800-311-BABY to connect
with the health department in your state.
Your health before pregnancy is called preconception health. It means knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect you or your unborn baby if you become pregnant. By taking action on health issues and risks before pregnancy, you can lower the risk of problems that might affect you or your baby later.
During pregnancy, regular prenatal care also will help keep you and your baby healthy. See your doctor as soon as you know you are pregnant. Don't drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs, which can harm your unborn baby. Only use medicines your doctor says are okay.
Once your baby is born, you and anyone who cares for your baby can take these steps to lower the risk of SIDS:
- Place your baby on his or her back to sleep, even for short naps. "Tummy time" is for when babies are awake and someone is watching.
- Use a firm sleep surface, such as a crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet.
- Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from sleep area.
- Make sure babies don't get too hot. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
Explore other publications and websites
American Indian Health — This website is an information portal to information about the health of native peoples of the United States. The topics include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and environmental health.
Safe Sleep for Your Baby: Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) — This publication explains what sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is and what you should know about it. Also, it provides 10 tips to help reduce your baby's risk of SIDS and an explanation of why it is safer for babies to sleep on their back.
The Death of a Child, the Grief of the Parents: A Lifetime Journey (Copyright © National Sudden and Unexpected Infant/Child Death & Pregnancy Loss) — This publication guides parents through the grieving process and helps readers understand the magnitude of the effects of a loss. It includes special sections, such as "From One Bereaved Parent to Another," that allow readers to feel support through this difficult time.
Connect with other organizations
American SIDS Institute
CJ Foundation for SIDS
National Indian Women's Health Resource Center (NIWHRC)
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
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