The infant mortality rate is defined as the number of deaths that occur between birth and exactly one year of age, per 1,000 live births. Fortunately there are few infant deaths in York.
The current crude infant mortality rate for York is 5.0 per 1,000 live births and is based on 2007-2009 data. This is not dissimilar to the previous rate and is not significantly different to the England average of 4.7 for the same period (Health & Social Care Information Centre).
The percentage of births in York that were considered to be of low birth weight (less than 2,500g) during 2009 was 6.6% which was not significantly different to the England average of 7.5% for the same period.
There appears to have been a small increase in the number of low birth weight babies born since 2008. This finding may be due to chance, however as there are recognised links between deprivation, infant mortality and low birth weight babies this may be an area to monitor. The figure below illustrates that a significantly larger proportion of babies born in the most deprived quintile are of low birth weight compared to those born in the rest of the City.
The risks associated with low birth weight at delivery persist through into adult life and it is suggested that those individuals who were low birth weight at delivery have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease in adulthood (Leon, 1998). As maternal nutrition in pregnancy and smoking in pregnancy and alcohol consumption in pregnancy are individually associated with low birth weight babies, and there are longer term consequences for low birth weight individuals, targeting at-risk populations in this area will be important.
One specific cause of low birth weight babies is foetal alcohol syndrome, where the consumption of more than one or two units of alcohol each week whilst pregnant has a deleterious effect on the health and cognitive functioning of the baby. Estimates of the number of new cases of foetal alcohol syndrome vary and are difficult to reconcile. Although foetal alcohol syndrome is not a common condition, it is regarded as the leading known cause of non-genetic intellectual disability in the Western world (Abel, 1987).
National estimates of alcohol consumption in pregnancy based on the Infant Feeding Survey 2005 show that in the UK, of the women who drank before pregnancy, 34% gave up while they were pregnant and 61% said they drank less during their pregnancy. There is a paucity of local data in this area, both in terms of the local incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome and information regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Therefore no specific recommendations can be made.