Prematurity and sudden unexpected infant deaths in the United States

Barbara M. Ostfeld, Ofira Schwartz-Soicher, Nancy E. Reichman, Julien O. Teitler, Thomas Hegyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Prematurity, a strong risk factor for sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), was addressed in recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 for safe sleep education in NICUs. We documented associations between gestational age (GA) and SUID subsequent to these guidelines. METHODS: Using the 2012-2013 US linked infant birth and death certificate period files, we documented rates per live births of sudden infant death syndrome, ill-defined and unspecified causes, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and overall SUID by GA in postneonatal, out-of-hospital, and autopsied cases; compared survivors and cases; and estimated logistic regression models of associations between GA and SUID. RESULTS: SUID cases were more likely than survivors to be <37 weeks' GA (22.61% vs 10.79%; P < .0001). SUID rates were 2.68, 1.94, 1.46, 1.16, 0.73, and 0.51 per 1000 live births for 24 to 27, 28 to 31, 32 to 33, 34 to 36, 37 to 38, and 39 to 42 weeks' GA, respectively. Logistic regression models additionally indicated declines in the risk for SUID as GA increased. Prenatal smoking, inadequate prenatal care, and demographics associated with poverty were strongly associated with SUID. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for increased safe sleep education in the NICUs, SUID rates were inversely associated with GA in 2012 to 2013, suggesting that risk of SUID associated with prematurity has multiple etiologies requiring continued investigation, including biological vulnerabilities and the efficacy of NICU education programs, and that strategies to reduce SUID should be multifaceted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20163334
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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