Article

Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 865-891

First online:

Birth Outcome Measures and Infant Mortality

  • Sai MaAffiliated withDepartment of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Email author 
  • , Brian Karl FinchAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, San Diego State University

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Abstract

Recent studies have proposed alternative birth outcome measures as means of assessing infant mortality risk; nevertheless, there hasn’t yet been an integrated analysis of these approaches. We review 14 strategies, including various combinations of birth weight, gestational age, fetal growth rate, and Apgar scores—as predictors of early neonatal, late neonatal, and postneonatal mortality, and infant mortality. Using the NCHS linked birth/infant death file for 2001, we construct multivariate logit models and assess the associations between each of the 14 key birth outcome measures and four mortality outcomes. We find that all evaluated birth outcome measures are strong predictors, but Apgar scores are the strongest among all models for all outcomes, independent of birth weight and gestational age. Apgar scores’ predictive power is stronger for Mexican-, white-, and female-infants than for black- and male-infants. Second, all birth outcome measures remain significantly associated with mortality, but their predictive power reduces drastically over time. These findings suggest a rule of thumb for predicting infant mortality odds: when available, Apgar scores should always be included along with birth weight (or LBW status) and gestational age. Additionally, these findings argue for the continued study of low birthweight, gestational age, and Apgar scores as independently salient health outcomes.

Keywords

Birth outcome measures Birth weight Low birth weight (LBW) Gestational age Infant mortality