CDC Data Shows Spike in Fetal Deaths in Pennsylvania, Utah, and California

4 min read

Mother holds pregnant belly in hospital

Although birth rates have steadily decreased since 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting significant increases in fetal deaths in California, Pennsylvania, and Utah in recent years.

If U.S. birth rates are decreasing, why are some states seeing an increase in fetal deaths? Sadly, medical malpractice or negligence may be to blame.

Keep reading to learn more about risk factors for intrauterine fetal demise, the difference between fetal death and miscarriage, and what to do if you think your stillbirth could have been avoided.

To find out if your IUFD may have been caused by a hospital or doctor’s negligence, contact our team of nurse case managers today.

Understanding Fetal Death Rates

Fetal death (also called fetal demise, intrauterine fetal demise, IUFD, or stillbirth), refers to the death of a fetus that occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. While the national birth rate is the total number of live births per 1,000 people in a given year, the fetal death rate refers to how many stillbirths occur per 1,000 births.

Fetal death and miscarriage are often confused, but they are not the same thing. Miscarriage refers to the death of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy.

As of 2021, the nationwide average fetal death rate was 5.68, meaning more than 5 of every 1,000 births are stillbirths. This was a small decrease compared to 2020’s average of 5.74.

However, some states have seen concerning spikes in fetal deaths, with the CDC specifically mentioning California, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Other states, like Georgia and Kentucky, also have fetal death rates much higher than the national average.

The following states saw concerning changes in fetal deaths according to CDC data:

State2021 Fetal Death Rate (Per 1,000 Births)Percent Increase in Fetal Deaths

You may be owed compensation if your stillbirth could have been prevented. Find a birth injury lawyer in your state who can help.

Risk Factors for IUFD

Unfortunately, stillbirth can happen to any expecting mother. However, there are risk factors that may increase your risk of experiencing IUFD.

Some risk factors for IUFD include:

  • Advanced maternal age (35 years or older)
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Maternal hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Maternal infection
  • Placental abnormalities or complications
  • Previous pregnancy loss
  • Race and ethnicity (non-Hispanic Black women have a higher risk)
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs during pregnancy

States may be seeing more fetal deaths because of a rise in certain risk factors and causes of intrauterine fetal demise. Researchers believe that the COVID-19 pandemic may also play a part.

If a doctor failed to identify or address one of these IUFD risk factors, you may be able to file a birth injury lawsuit and get justice for your baby. Connect with one of our case managers for free right now.

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COVID-19 Infection During Pregnancy

In a report by the National Center for Health Statistics (a division of the CDC), researchers found an association between parents who became sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy and higher instances of fetal death.

According to the CDC and numerous studies reported by the National Library of Medicine, COVID-19 during pregnancy puts women at increased risk of experiencing stillbirth. Researchers are trying to determine why this is the case, but it could be difficult since COVID-19 is not always correctly reported in fetal deaths.

Additionally, the pandemic put health care staff through stressful working conditions, leading to many medical professionals feeling anxious, burnt out, and physically ill. Obstetricians and gynecologists reported in a 2021 survey that they were considering early retirement to deal with the mental and physical impacts of working through the pandemic.

Medical Negligence or Malpractice

In some cases, medical negligence may also result in fetal death. Medical negligence occurs when a doctor, surgeon, or other staff member fails to deliver the standard of care necessary to protect a patient.

With nurses and health care workers still managing the stress and burnout from the pandemic, medical negligence rates could increase and put more and more parents at risk of serious birth injury or death.

If you believe you experienced fetal demise caused by a doctor’s or hospital’s negligence, we can help. Reach out to the Birth Injury Justice Center at (800) 914-1562 today to learn more about your legal options.

Preventing Intrauterine Fetal Demise

Sadly, some stillbirths cannot be avoided. However, many fetal deaths have been traced to preventable causes like lack of proper prenatal care and untreated health conditions.

Here are some steps to take during pregnancy to safeguard against stillbirth:

  1. Attend all prenatal checkups, and let your health care provider know if you’re having any unusual symptoms
  2. Be upfront about your medical history. This will help your doctor create a care plan tailored to your needs. For instance, if you have experienced IUFD in the past, they will likely monitor you more closely throughout your pregnancy.
  3. Seek prompt medical care for any health conditions. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity can increase the risk of stillbirth.
  4. Stop the use of all substances. There are free treatment options available to help pregnant mothers quit using tobacco and other harmful substances.

Get Help for a Stillbirth Due to Malpractice

If you suffered a stillbirth caused by medical malpractice, you do not have to face your grief alone, and there may be financial resources available to help. Our team can help connect you with top birth injury lawyers in your area.

The attorneys in our nationwide network have decades of experience filing birth injury lawsuits and a track record of securing millions of dollars in settlements for families in need.

Reach out to the Birth Injury Justice Center now for a free case review. We can let you know if you qualify for financial compensation and go over your legal options.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
  1. CBS News. (2023, June 1). “Fewer babies born in U.S. in 2022, and teen birth rate hit record low, CDC reports.” Retrieved from Accessed on June 21, 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 29). “What is Stillbirth?” Retrieved from Accssed on June 21, 2023.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics. (January 2023). “Vital Statistics Rapid Release: Births: Provisional Data for 2022.” Retrieved from Accessed on June 21, 2023.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics. (January 2023 ). “Vital Statistics Rapid Release: Fetal Mortality Rate in the United States: Final 2019-2020 and 2020-Provisional 2021.” Retrieved from Accessed on June 21, 2023.
  5. National Library of Medicine. (2022, October 21). “Intrauterine Fetal Demise.” StatPearls. Retrieved from Accessed on June 16, 2023.
  6. Riggan, K. A., et al. (2021). “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Obstetricians/Gynecologists.” Mayo Clinic proceedings. Innovations, quality & outcomes. Retrieved from: Accessed on June 21, 2023.
  7. ScienceDirect. (2023). “Birth Rate – an overview.” Retrieved from Accessed on June 16, 2023.