- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s infant mortality rate declined in 2013, and the infant mortality rate for black infants fell to its lowest level ever.

The state Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the 2013 rate for all infants was 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That was down from 8.9 recorded in 2012. Alabama’s record low was 8.1 in 2011.

The department said Wednesday the infant mortality rate among black babies was 12.6, which was the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1950. The rate among white infants rose from 6.6 in 2012 to 6.9 in 2013.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said Alabama’s medical community has worked to decrease elective early deliveries, which has produced better outcomes. He said other factors include increased care during pregnancies and better family planning with the advent of long-acting reversible contraceptives. He said family planning is a factor because the infant mortality rate for births with less than a two-year interval was 11.4, compared to 6.9 for those with two years or more in between.

Alabama recorded 58,182 live births in 2013. The infant mortality rate represents 500 of those babies who did not reach their first birthday.

The health department said the percent of births to teenagers in 2013 was the lowest ever recorded at 9.3 percent, or 5,420 births, and the percent of births to teens less than 18 years old was also a record low at 2.6 percent, or 1,524 births.

The infant mortality rate among babies born to teens was higher than that for births to adults, 12.5 compared to 8.2, the department said.

The infant mortality rate was also higher for babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy than for those who didn’t, 13.2 compared to 7.9, the department said.

Alabama’s infant mortality rate was 36.4 in 1950. The highest figure in the last decade was 10.0 in 2007, and the lowest was 8.1 in 2011. Despite that, the percentage of women who smoked during pregnancy increased slightly from 10.7 percent in 2012 to 10.8 percent in 2013, the department said.

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