The rate of infant mortality in England and Wales in 2013 fell to 3.8 deaths per 1000 live births, a record low, according to figures released by the Office of National Statistics.
The infant mortality rate fell from four per 1000 births in 2012, continuing a declining trend since 1983, when the rate was 10.1 per 1000. The figures also showed that infant mortality rates were lowest for babies of mothers aged 25 to 29 years, who saw 3.4 deaths per 1000 live births compared with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births babies of mothers aged under 20 years, the highest mortality rate. The weight of a baby was shown to have a dramatic effect of infant mortality rates. There were 164 deaths per live birth for babies weighing under 1500g at birth and 32.4 per 100 live births for babies born weighing under 2500g.
Louise Silverton, the RCM's director for midwifery, said: 'It is very encouraging to see the figures falling; we are going in the right direction. However, there is always more to do to try and reduce these even further. Behind each statistic is a child that has died and a family that has been devastated as a result.'
The figures also contained data on variations in infant mortality rates for different socio-economic groups. For example, babies born to mothers working in routine or manual roles saw 5.4 deaths per 1000, compared to 2.2 for babies born to mothers in managerial and administrative roles. The ONS has sugges-ted that the disparity is caused by the link between lower socio-economic status and poorer maternal health, which could ultimately affect infant mortality rates.
There were also variations in infant mortality rates based on the country of origin of the mother. The rate for babies of mothers born outside the UK was 4.2 deaths per 1000 births compared with 3.6 deaths per 1,000 for mothers born in the UK. The highest infant mortality rates were for babies of mothers born in the Caribbean, with 9 deaths per 1000 births and followed by 8.3 deaths per 1000 births for mothers born in Central Africa. Babies of mothers born in the Caribbean also had the highest stillbirth rate, with 8.3 deaths per 1000 total births.
Ms Silverton added: ''We need to be targeting services more effectively – particularly for those groups in society where pregnancy outcomes tend to be worse. We also need more efforts around tackling lifestyle choices before and during pregnancy, such as smoking, that can have a very negative affect on the developing baby. It is also crucial that we have more continuity of care and carer in maternity services. When women know their midwives, they are more likely to be able to discuss difficult issues, such as smoking or alcohol consumption. The midwife is also more likely to spot problems developing during the pregnancy and take steps to address them.'