A total of 440 perinatal deaths occurring in a maternity hospital over a 6 year period have been analysed clinically and pathologically. The decline in mortality could be attributed to a reduction in asphyxial deaths, lethal malformations, and macerated stillbirths. The establishment of a neonatal intensive care unit seemed to have been more successful in combating birth asphyxia than respiratory distress syndrome. Although the greatest reduction in perinatal mortality was in babies with birthweights between 1 and 1.5 kg, there was no decline in the deaths from hyaline membrane disease or intraventricular haemorrhage, or both. The most striking change was the drop in asphyxia as a cause of perinatal death which was independent of birth trauma. Earlier diagnosis of fetal distress with obstetric intervention and the establishment of the intensive care unit were seen as the main factors in this change, and their mutual dependence and evolution are emphasised.
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