History of neonatal deaths could help identify high-risk pregnancies

Mothers in India who had a history of neonatal death—defined as losing a child within 27 days of birth—were at the greatest risk of experiencing additional neonatal deaths, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, indicates that a history of neonatal deaths could serve as a useful risk factor to identify women and newborns who may need enhanced pregnancy care. It may also alert clinicians to high-risk pregnancies earlier than currently used methods.

S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography, and senior author of the study, led a team that analyzed 127,336 births among women between the ages of 15 and 49 who had delivered more than one child. There were 2,224 neonatal deaths in the study population, 22.8% of which were among women who had previously lost a child.

The study authors noted that mothers with a history of neonatal death were more likely to be poorer, have no formal education, and were less likely to have received antenatal care when compared with mothers who had no history of neonatal deaths.

The researchers said clinicians and policymakers alike should consider the findings when developing systems to improve maternal care and identifying high-risk pregnancies.

Rockli Kim, a visiting scientist in the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, was a co-author on the report.

Read the JAMA Network Open article: Association of Maternal History of Neonatal Death With Subsequent Neonatal Death in India