The number of U.S. babies born to teen mothers dropped to record lows in 2011, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fewer women also gave birth in their 20s than in prior years, researchers found - but the birth rate increased for those in their late 30s and early 40s.
“The economy has declined, and that certainly is a factor that goes into people’s decisions about having a child,” said CDC statistician Brady Hamilton, lead author of the new report.
“Women may say to themselves, ‘It’s not a particularly good time right now… let’s wait a little bit,’” he told Reuters Health.
Older women, however, are typically more secure in their employment, he said - and understand that they don’t have as long to wait if they want to get pregnant.
The new data were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. They showed an eight-percent drop in teen births between 2010 and 2011. Just over three percent of 15- to 19-year-olds had babies during that period.
Hamilton and his colleagues calculated that 3.6 million more babies would have been born to women in that age group over the last two decades had the teen birth rate not been falling since a peak in 1991.
On the other end of the spectrum, the birth rate among 35- to 39-year-olds increased by three percent over 2010 figures. In 2011, 4.7 percent of women in their late 30s and just over one percent in their early 40s had a baby, the CDC team found.
+ In 2010, 3,999,386 births were reported to U.S. residents, 3 percent less than in 2009 (4,130,665). The number of births declined for nearly all race and Hispanic origin groups.
+ The general fertility rate was 64.1 births per 1,000 U.S. women aged 15–44, down 3 percent from 2009 (66.2). The total fertility rate (estimated number of births over a woman’s lifetime) was 1,931 births per 1,000 women in 2010, a 4 percent decline from 2009 (2,002).
+ The birth rate for U.S. teenagers aged 15–19 fell 10 percent in 2010, to 34.2 per 1,000, reaching the lowest level reported in the United States in seven decades. Rates declined for teen subgroups aged 10–14, 15–17, and 18–19 and for all race and Hispanic origin groups.
+ Birth rates declined among women of all age groups under age 40 from 2009 to 2010; the birth rate for women aged 40–44 rose, and the rate per 1,000 women aged 45–49 was unchanged.
+ The first-birth rate for women aged 15–44 declined 3 percent to 25.9 births per 1,000 women in 2010. First-birth rates declined for women under age 30 and aged 35–39, but rose for women aged 30–34 and 40–44.
+ In 2010, the mean age of mother at first birth increased to 25.4 years from 25.2 in 2009. The mean age rose for nearly all race and Hispanic origin groups.
+ Childbearing by unmarried women declined in 2010 for the second consecutive year, as reflected in fewer births (1,633,471) and a lower birth rate (47.6 per 1,000). The number of births declined almost 4 percent and the birth rate fell 5 percent, while the percentage of births to unmarried women declined slightly to 40.8 percent.
+ The cesarean delivery rate decreased slightly to 32.8 percent of all births in 2010, the first decline in this rate since 1996. The cesarean rate rose nearly 60 percent from 1996 to 2009.
+ The preterm birth rate (less than 37 weeks) declined for the fourth year in a row, to 11.99 percent of births. This rate is now down 6 percent since the 2006 peak. Declines from 2009 to 2010 were seen for each of the largest race and Hispanic origin groups.
+ The low birthweight (LBW) rate was essentially unchanged in 2010 at 8.15 percent of all births. The LBW rate (less than 2,500 grams) has trended somewhat downward since 2006 (from 8.26 percent).
+ The twin birth rate declined slightly in 2010 to 33.1 per 1,000 total births. The twinning rate rose more than 70 percent from 1980 to 2009, but the pace of increase has slowed in recent years. The rate of triplet and higher-order multiple births (triplet/+) declined 10 percent in 2010, to 137.6 per 100,000 births. The triplet/+ birth rate rose more than 400 percent during the 1980s and 1990s, but has declined 29 percent since 1998.
Other results from the vital statistics report showed a continued decline in babies born prematurely or small, and an unchanged rate of infant deaths.
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 babies of white moms, death records showed.
Hamilton said the decline in teen births, in particular, is especially “welcome news” and reflects the efforts of programs and policies targeting that age group.
“It’s definitely consistent with the trends that we’ve seen, and it’s obviously good news overall,” said Dr. Krishna Upadhya, who studies teen pregnancy at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
“I think the main thing behind this is increased contraceptive use, and better contraceptive use,” Upadhya, who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.
However, she added, there are still some parts of the country where both condoms and long-acting forms of contraception, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), are harder for teens to access.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, online February 11, 2013.