Trends in stillbirth rates, perinatal, neonatal and postneonatal mortality in Italy over the perrod 1955-84 were analyzed. There was a 75% reduction (from 28.4 to 7.1/1000 births) in stillbirth rates, and a nearly 70% fall (from 46.2 to 14.5/1000 births) in overall perinatal mortality (from the 180th day of pregnancy to the first week of life). Further, mortality rates from the 8th to the 28th day of life dropped from 7.4 to 1.6/1000 livebirths, and mortality from the second month to the first year of life from 25.1 to 2.2/1000 livebirths. The fall in stillbirth rates was similarly evident across various indicators of maternal education and social class, and could only marginally be accounted for by changes in maternal age distribution. The causes of this large drop in perinatal, neonatal and postneonatal mortality are likely to be numerous and complex. In the absence of any comprehensive program of rationalization of obstetrical and neonatal care, a determinant role must have been played by a general improvement in economic and cultural conditions. However, the observation that decreased perinatal mortality was not due to a decline in the proportion of low birth weight indicates that improved perinatal care may have had an important role as well. Although the decrease in various measures of perinatal and postneonatal mortality in Italy was proportionally comparable with that registered in several other developed countries, Italian perinatal mortality rates (14.5/1000 births in 1984) still appear considerably higher than in other countries, and are clearly far from the optimal theoretical value.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health