This web tool presents a summary of fetal and infant deaths, with a focus on deaths and stillbirths registered in 2017. Information presented includes demographic information (eg, ethnicity and sex), cause of death, gestation and birthweight, as well as deaths classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
Key findings for 2017
- There were 390 fetal deaths and 284 infant deaths registered in 2017.
- This equates to a fetal death rate of 6.4 per 1000 total births and an infant death rate of 4.7 per 1000 live births.
- Between 1996 and 2017, there was a significant decrease in the infant death rate. The rate fell from 7.3 to 4.7 per 1000 live births. This decrease was primarily due to a notable decrease in post-neonatal deaths.
- Over the same time period, the fetal death rate was between 6.0 and 8.5 per 1000 total births.
- Between 2008 and 2017, the total number of births decreased by around 7%. The total number of births each year can influence the rate of fetal and infant deaths.
- There was no significant difference in fetal death rates between ethnic groups in 2017, consistent with the previous five-year period. Fetal death rates by ethnicity were similar between 2012 to 2017.
- Infant death rates in 2017 were highest for the Pacific peoples and Māori ethnic groups (8.7 and 5.9 per 1000 live births, respectively). These rates were significantly higher than rates for the European or Other and Asian ethnic groups (3.4 and 3.7 per 1000 live births, respectively). Similar differences were seen in the previous five years.
Maternal age group
- There was no significant difference in fetal death rates between maternal age groups.
- In 2017, the infant death rate was highest among women aged between 20 and 24 years (6.8 per 1000 live births).
- In the previous five-year period (2012–2016), the infant death rate for babies of women aged less than 20 years was significantly higher than for babies of women in all other age groups.
- In 2017, there were no significant differences in fetal death rates between levels of deprivation.
- The highest infant death rates in 2017 were for the most deprived areas (quintile 5). In the most deprived areas, the infant death rate was more than twice the rate of the least deprived areas (quintile 5, 6.6 per 1000 live births and quintile 1, 2.7 per 1000 live births). This is consistent with the previous five-year period (2012–2016).
- Approximately 80% of fetal deaths and 69% of infant deaths registered in 2017 were preterm (<37 weeks’ gestation), the majority of which were very preterm (<28 weeks’ gestation).
- Approximately 60% of fetal deaths registered in 2017 had a birthweight of less than 1000 g, and approximately 30% had a birthweight of less than 500 g.
- Approximately 50% of infant deaths had a birthweight of less than 1000 g, and approximately 20% weighed 500–999 g at birth.
Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)
- There were 48 sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) deaths in 2017, including 28 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths. The SUDI deaths included 28 males and 20 females.
- The SUDI rate in 2017 was 0.8 per 1000 live births. In each year in the period 2013–2017, the SUDI rate was either 0.7 or 0.8 per 1000 live births.
- In the five-year period 2013–2017, SUDI rates for babies in the Māori and Pacific peoples ethnic groups were significantly higher than the rates for babies in the Asian and European or Other ethnic groups. SUDI rates for babies of mothers aged less than 25 years were significantly higher than for those mothers in all other age groups. The SUDI rate for babies born in the most deprived areas (quintile 5) was significantly higher than the rate for all other deprivation quintiles.
Note: The number of fetal and infant deaths in New Zealand is small and may cause rates to fluctuate markedly from year to year. Rates derived from small numbers should be interpreted with caution.
About the data used in this edition
This dataset is a continuation of the Fetal and Infant Deaths series.
At the time the data was extracted there were 11 infant deaths awaiting coroners' findings. These deaths may be assigned a provisional code based on limited information available at the time, while deaths with no known cause awaiting coroners’ findings are coded to R99, ‘Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality’, or X59, ‘Exposure to unspecified factor’. Deaths for which a cause is still to be determined or confirmed will be updated in the next edition of Fetal and Infant Deaths as the coroners complete their findings.
In this edition, deaths data was extracted and recalculated for the years 2008–2017 to reflect ongoing updates to data in the New Zealand Mortality Collection (for example, following the release of coroners’ findings). For this reason, there may be small changes to some numbers and rates from those presented in previous publications and tables.
We have quality checked the collection, extraction, and reporting of the data presented here. However, errors can occur. Contact the Ministry of Health if you have any concerns regarding any of the data or analyses presented here, at [email protected].