RALEIGH — The state’s infant mortality rate ticked up in 2012, according to data released Thursday.
For every thousand infants born, about 7.4 died before their first birthday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said.
That’s a slight increase from last year’s rate of 7.2 per 1000 live births, but still is the third-lowest infant mortality rate in the state’s history. The lowest rate, 7 deaths per 1000 live births, came in 2010.
The increased mortality rate was a result of more deaths among African-American and American Indian infants. While the white infant mortality rate was unchanged, African-American infant mortality rates increased by a point, to 13.9 per thousand, almost double the average.
“The numbers are also increasing among the American Indian population,” according to a DHHS release.
Averaged over the past four years, the counties with the highest infant mortality rates have included Perquimans, Hertford, Bertie and Jones.
The most frequent causes of infant death in 2012 were, in descending order, prematurity and low birth weight; congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities; and various conditions rooted in late pregnancy and early infancy.
Authorities believe smoking adds 10 percent to the mortality rate, while frequent pregnancies and obesity also complicate births. About 10.6 percent of women smoked during pregnancy in 2012.
The full DHHS report is available at www.schs.state.nc.us/schs/deaths/ims/2012/.