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Infant death

woman with a baby working in the garden

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:

African-Americans have over twice the rate of infant deaths as whites. African-American infants are also four times more likely to die due to complications related to low birth weight than white babies. Plus, African-American infants have the second highest rates of SIDS.

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 to 800 micrograms of folic every day.
  • Vaccines 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, like sickle cell anemia.
  • Problems you have had with prior pregnancies.

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.

Did you know?

Women in every state can get help paying for prenatal care. Call 800-311-BABY to connect
with the health department in your state.

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.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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