National Vital Statistics System - Fetal Death (NVSS-FD)

Years Available
1922 to present
Mode of Collection
Census: the dataset includes a nearly-complete census of fetal deaths of 20 or more weeks of gestation or 350 or more grams birthweight, with additional reporting of fetal deaths of earlier gestations by several States.
Fetal death refers to the spontaneous intrauterine death of a fetus at any time during pregnancy. Fetal deaths later in pregnancy (at 20 or more weeks of gestation, for example) are also sometimes referred to as stillbirths. In the United States, state laws require the reporting of fetal deaths, and federal law mandates the national collection and publication of fetal death data. Most states report fetal deaths of 20 or more weeks of gestation or 350 or more grams birthweight.
Selected Content
Maternal characteristics, including age, race, Hispanic origin, state of residence; fetal characteristics including gestational age at delivery, birth weight, plurality, sex, medical risk factors, cause of fetal death, and method of delivery. Content has changed periodically with revisions to the U.S. Standard Report of Fetal Death (1979, 1989, 2003).
Population Covered
The U.S. population.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics (CDC, NCHS) obtains information on fetal deaths from the registration offices of each of the 50 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. By law, registration of fetal deaths is the responsibility of the institution in which the delivery occurs. If delivery occurs outside of an institution, the responsibility lies with the professional attendant at, or immediately after delivery, generally a physician or midwife. The fetal death report is filed with the local or state registrar in the jurisdiction in which the delivery occurred, within a time period prescribed by state law. State fetal death reports are modeled on a U.S. Standard Report of Fetal Death that is revised periodically. States provide NCHS with fetal death data, mainly in electronic format.
Response Rates and Sample Size
Fetal death information is reported by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. The majority of reporting areas report deaths at 20 weeks of gestation or 350 grams. In 2013, approximately 24 thousand fetal deaths of 20 or more weeks were reported.
Interpretation Issues
As of 2018, each of the 50 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia have implemented the 2003 Revision of the US Standard Report of Fetal Death. Fairly high levels of missing data are observed for a number of variables. There is also some evidence of underreporting and misclassification of fetal deaths at the lower range of gestational age, typically in the 20-24 week range.