A recent study shows that rates infant mortality have fallen in the United States over the past decade. Unfortunately, researchers have not found a similar change in the number of stillbirths. In fact, the number of reported stillbirths is slightly higher than the number of reported infant deaths.

According to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 23,595 stillbirths reported in 2013, slightly more than the 23,446 reported incidents of infants dying before their first birthday. Every previous study found that infant mortality was more common than stillbirth.

Stillbirth is a widely misunderstood problem, and one which many people are reluctant to discuss for emotional reasons. Still, it’s important for scientists to study the phenomenon and for doctors to understand its causes so that they may diagnose problems that could lead to it for their pregnant patients.

Common causes for stillbirth include include infections, genetic issues or an umbilical or placental disorder. According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the biggest cause of stillbirths was obstetric complications. This term covers a broad range of health issues, some of which stem from natural causes and some which don’t. In some cases, medical error may contribute to a stillbirth either through injury to the mother or fetus, or through medical professionals negligently failing to diagnose a problem until it is too late.

Stillbirth and infant death are two of the most traumatic experiences any parent can have. If a stillbirth or birth injury was caused by medical malpractice, the family may be able to recover compensation for their damages through a lawsuit. A legal professional can meet with family members and discuss how the law may apply to the facts of their case.

Source: New York Times, “Stillbirths Now Outnumber Deaths Among Infants, Study Finds,” Catherine Saint Louis, July 23, 2015