U.S. birth rate reaches record low

September 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The 2002 U.S. birth rate fell to the lowest level since national data have been available, according to the latest CDC and Prevention birth statistics.

Teen births decline, Caesarean deliveries increase

The 2002 U.S. birth rate fell to the lowest level since national data have been available, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention birth statistics.

The birth rate was 13.9 per 1,000 persons in 2002, a decline of 1% from the rate of 14.1 per 1,000 in 2001 and down 17% from the recent peak in 1990 (16.7 births per 1,000). The current low birth rate primarily reflects the smaller proportion of women of childbearing age in the U.S. population as baby boomers age and Americans are living longer.

Births among different age groups

The birth rate for women in the peak childbearing ages has also decreased, according to the CDC. Birth rates for women in their 20s and early 30s were generally down, while births to older mothers (age 35 to 44) were still on the rise. Rates were stable for women over age 45.

Birth rates among teenagers were down in 2002, continuing a decline that began in 1991. The birth rate fell to 43 births per 1,000 females 15 to 19 years of age in 2002, a 5% decline from 2001 and a 28% decline from 1990. The decline in the birth rate for younger teens, 15 to 17 years of age, was even more substantial, dropping 38% from 1990 to 2002, compared with a drop of 18% for teens 18 to 19.

Caesarean birth rates increase

More than one-fourth of all children born in 2002 were delivered by Caesarean section; the total Caesarean delivery rate of 26.1% was the highest level ever reported in the United States. The number of Caesarean births to women with no previous Caesarean birth jumped 7%, and the rate of vaginal births after previous Caesarean delivery dropped 23%. The Caesarean delivery rate declined during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, but has been on the rise since 1996.

Among other significant findings:


•Â In 2002, there were 4,019,280 births in the United States, down slightly from 2001 (4,025,933).


•Â The percentage of low-birth-weight babies (infants born weighing less than 2,500 grams) increased to 7.8%, up from 7.7% in 2001 and the highest level in more than 30 years. In addition, the percentage of preterm births (infants born at less than 37 weeks of gestation) increased slightly over 2001, from 11.9% to 12%.


•Â More than one-third of all births were to unmarried women. The birth rate for unmarried women was down slightly in 2002 to 43.6 per 1,000 unmarried women, reflecting the growing number of unmarried women in the population.


•Â Access to prenatal care continued a slow and steady increase. In 2002, 83.8% of women began receiving prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy, up from 83.4% in 2001 and 75.8% in 1990.

Data on births were based on information reported on birth certificates filed in state vital statistics offices and reported to the CDC through the National Vital Statistics System. PR

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