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NJ Health Statistics

Fetal Deaths, Perinatal Deaths, Maternal Deaths

Fetal Deaths

A fetal death is defined as a death occurring before the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception. Fetal deaths are also referred to as stillbirths, miscarriages or abortions. Fetal deaths occurring after the completion of 20 or more weeks of gestation are required to be reported to the State Registrar, by New Jersey law. Induced abortions of 20 weeks or more gestation are encompassed by this requirement, but are not included in the fetal death count. Fetal death figures presented in this report, therefore, include only spontaneous abortions beyond 19 weeks of gestation. (Fetal deaths of unknown or unstated gestational age are also included). Only fetal deaths occurring to females who were New Jersey residents are included.

There were 742 reported spontaneous, resident fetal deaths of over 20 weeks gestation in 1997 for a rate of 6.5 per 1,000 live births plus fetal deaths (CHS, 2000c). Of the total fetal deaths, 462 were to white women, 246 were to black women and 24 were to women of other races. Ten fetal death records had no stated race. Fetal death rates among white, black, and other race women were 5.7, 11.8, and 2.7, respectively. The 1996 fetal death rate was 6.6 per 1,000 live births plus fetal deaths. The prior year's race-specific death rates were 5.7, 11.7, and 3.8 among white, black, and other race women, respectively. Fetal deaths by county of residence are presented in Table M26.

Perinatal Deaths

Perinatal mortality is a measure of deaths in the period before and shortly after birth. Perinatal mortality combines the number of spontaneous fetal deaths of 20 or more weeks of gestation with deaths within the first 27 days of life (neonatal deaths). The number of perinatal deaths in 1997 was 1,258, which represents a rate of 11.0 perinatal deaths per 1,000 live births plus fetal deaths.

Maternal Deaths

There were 11 deaths from pregnancy complications (ICD-9 codes 630 through 676) in 1997 (Table M25). The maternal death rate was 9.7 per 100,000 live births. Because of the small number of annual deaths due to maternal complications, this rate fluctuates widely from year to year. Of these deaths, three were white, seven were black, and one was a race other than white or black. Table M26 provides a distribution by county of the number of infant, neonatal, postneonatal, fetal and maternal deaths in 1997.

The Office of Maternal and Child Health Planning and Regional Services of the New Jersey Department of Health reviews all pertinent death certificates as part of its survey of maternal mortality. This process involves assessing diagnostic and other information beyond that included in the underlying cause group. As a result, the number of maternal deaths derived from this process is higher than the figure presented in this report, which is based on the use of ICD-9 codes 630-676, alone, as the definition of maternal mortality (Mertz, K., et al., 1992).

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