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The reliability of perinatal and neonatal mortality rates: differential under-reporting in linked professional registers vs. Dutch civil registers

Authors


Correspondence: SabineAnthony TNO Prevention and Health, Department of Reproduction and Perinatology, PO Box 2215, 2301 CE Leiden, The Netherlands. E-mail: s.anthony@pg.tno.nl

Summary

Official Dutch perinatal mortality rates are based on birth and death certificates. These civil registration data are not detailed enough for international comparisons or extensive epidemiological research. In this study, we linked and extrapolated three national, incomplete, professional registers from midwives, obstetricians and paediatricians, containing detailed perinatal information. This linkage and extrapolation resulted in one detailed professional database which is representative of all Dutch births and from which gestational age-specific perinatal mortality rates could be calculated. The reliability of these calculated mortality rates was established by comparing them with the rates derived from the national civil registers. The professional database reported more perinatal deaths and fewer late neonatal deaths than the civil registers. The under-reporting in the civil registers amounted to 1.2 fewer perinatal deaths per 1000 births and was most apparent in immature newborns. We concluded that under-reporting of perinatal and neonatal deaths depends on the data source used. Mortality rates for the purpose of national and international comparison should, therefore, be defined with caution. This study also demonstrated that combining different incomplete professional registers can result in a more reliable database containing detailed perinatal information. Such databases can be used as the basis for extensive perinatal epidemiological research.

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