High infant mortality rates remain in Indiana

A sobering fact exists in the Hoosier State. Indiana's infant mortality rate is 25% higher than the national average.

Officials at the Indiana Youth Institute say there are several factors that lead to the sad statistic, and in many cases, infant mortality can be preventable.

Infant mortality is when a baby dies within the first year of life, and one of the leading factors is smoking during pregnancy.

"17% of Indiana moms admit to smoking while they're pregnant," said Bill Stanczykiewicz, the president and CEO at the Indiana Youth Institute. "One fourth of pregnant moms between the ages of 18-24 admit to smoking while carrying baby. These are far higher than the national average."

Stanczykiewicz and others hope spreading knowledge to mothers can help.

"When you look at the list of causes, so many of them are fixable through changes in life style and other healthy behavior," said Stanczykiewicz. "So that public information campaign can go a long way in actually making a quick difference in improving the infant mortality rate."

Other factors are prenatal care and nursing after birth.

"The Indiana State Department of Health has noted that women who don't nurse, who don't breast feed, that their children are at a higher risk of infant mortality, said Stanczykiewicz. "Nationally, about 75% of women nurse, naturally. In Indiana, it's less than two thirds."

A lack of prenatal care can also be detrimental to a child.

"A baby who does not benefit from prenatal care [in the first trimester] is 5 times more likely to die in the first 12 months of life," said Stanczykiewicz.

For more information about the Indiana Youth Institute, visit their website.

To find help during pregnancy, contact the Department of Family Resources. It has an office in every county. Many mothers are also eligible for state funded programs.

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