Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Fewer babies were born in the US in 2011 than in the previous two years, and babies born to teen mothers dropped to record lows, according to data by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new data, based on an annual summary of vital statistics, also shows that fewer women gave birth in their 20s than in previous years. However, the CDC statistics show that the number of babies born to older woman, those in their late 30s and early 40s, increased in 2011.
Still, the overall data shows that 2011 had fewer births than in any year before. The data shows that 3,953,593 babies were born in the US in 2011–a 1-percent drop from 2010 and a 4-percent drop from 2009. Combining that number with overall population data, the crude birth rate was 12.7 per 1,000 people, the lowest rate ever reported for the US.
The data was compiled by Brady Hamilton, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta, along with colleagues at the agency and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) in Baltimore. The data appears online early and will be published in the March 2013 issue of Pediatrics.
The lower birth rate is likely a sign of the times.
“The economy has declined, and that certainly is a factor that goes into people’s decisions about having a child,” Hamilton said in an interview with Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health. “Women may say to themselves, ℠It’s not a particularly good time right now“¦ let’s wait a little bit.”
However, for the uptick in births seen in the older population, Hamilton said this is typically due to women who are more secure about their employment, and also understand that they do not have as much time left to give birth as their younger peers.
For teens, birth rates among those 15-19 years of age fell by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011, reaching a historic low of 31.3 births per 1,000 women. Hamilton noted that this is a drop that has been ongoing for years, down 49 percent from 1991.
On the flip side, birth rates among women 35-39 years of age increased by three percent from 2010. In 2011, 4.7 percent of women in their late 30s had a baby, and another one percent in their early 40s also gave birth, according to CDC data.
Among other findings in the report, the team found that cesarean delivery rates remained unchanged in 2011, after steadily increasing from 1996 to 2009.
Preterm birth rates were down slightly in 2011, the fifth straight year of decline, although still higher than the rates seen in the 1980s and most of the 90s. The number of low birth weight babies born in 2011 was also down slightly (by 0.05 percent).
Among other findings, the report shows that black and Hispanic mothers continued to be more likely to have a premature baby than white women, but rates declined among all races. Infant mortality was more than twice as high among babies born to black mothers as in those born to white mothers.
The report showed that 23,192 infant deaths occurred in 2011. The report also showed that deaths for children and adolescents in 2011 were not significantly different than the 2010 findings. But the leading cause of death for children in 2011 was accidents, accounting for 35.6 percent of all deaths, down from 37 percent in 2010. The second leading cause of death was homicide, accounting for 11.4 percent, down from 12.1 percent in 2010.
As for lower teen birth rates, Hamilton said the finding was “welcome news” and reflects the efforts of programs and policies that have targeted that age group.
“It’s definitely consistent with the trends that we’ve seen, and it’s obviously good news overall,” Dr. Krishna Upadhya, who studies teen pregnancy at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, told Reuters Health. “I think the main thing behind this is increased contraceptive use, and better contraceptive use.”
However, there are still areas of the country where condoms and contraception are more difficult for teens to get access to, added Upadhya, who was not involved in the CDC report.