WEDNESDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- The number of unmarried women who are having babies has reached a record level in the United States, and Cesarean delivery rates continue to hit new highs, a government report shows.
The total number of births, birth rate and proportion of births to unmarried women all increased by 3 percent to 5 percent from 2006 to 2007. The estimated 1,714,643 babies born to unmarried women in 2007 accounted for 39.7 percent of all births in the country.
The total number of births rose to 4,317,119 in 2007, the highest number of births ever registered in the United States. The Cesarean delivery rate increased by 2 percent, to 31.8 percent, in 2007 -- the eleventh consecutive year of increase and another record high for the nation, said the report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the other findings:
The report is based on an analysis of nearly 99 percent of birth records reported to 50 states and the District of Columbia as part of the National Vital Statistics System.
The March of Dimes said it hopes the decline in the rate of preterm births will be the start of a new trend in improved maternal and infant health.
"We're encouraged by this drop in the preterm birth rate and hope that the emphasis we've put on the problem of late preterm birth is beginning to make a difference," president Jennifer L. Howse said in a news release about the statistics. "Through our Prematurity Campaign, we can build on this success and begin to give more babies a healthy start in life."
Preterm birth, the leading cause of newborn death, costs more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. Preterm babies who survive are at risk for numerous health issues, including mental retardation and breathing problems, the March of Dimes said.
The March of Dimes has more about teen pregnancy.
SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics, news release, March 18, 2009