U.S. birth rates dropped for the third straight year, particularly in young moms, according to new statistics. Premature deliveries also dropped off and for the first time in more than a decade, cesarean section rates have leveled off. That’s according to a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Teen birth rates saw the biggest decline, dropping 9 percent from 2009 to 2010. It was the lowest rate ever recorded in almost seven decades, researchers said.
“A lot of factors go into a decision to have children,” said Brady Hamilton, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and co-author of the study. “One is the economy, and that certainly may have contributed to the overall decline in births in women under 40.”
“Of course, in cases with teens, the economy is not the only factor that comes into a decision,” continued Hamilton.
Birth rates for women in their early 40s increased by 2 percent, hitting the highest rate since 1967.
“You see a woman in her 20s delay her pregnancy because of the given economy, but for a woman between 40 to 44, it is not as viable of an option,” which could explain the increase in that age demographic, said Hamilton.
“This news is a great way to celebrate today, World Prematurity Day,” said Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director of March of Dimes, an organization that seeks to improve the health of mothers and babies. “This is a major public health victory. We’ve been trying to move that needle for a very long time. After a 30-year increase in premature births until 2006, we’re now seeing a decline.”
One in eight babies are born prematurely in the U.S.; worldwide, that number is 13 million.
Preemies are at risk for several lifelong medical conditions, including breathing problems, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.
Fleischman said the lower premature baby rates are likely due to increased access to preconception and prenatal care, increased smoking cessation programs and new medicine that protects women from having preterm babies.
Cesarean sections also declined ever so slightly, from 32.9 percent in 2009 to 32.8 in 2010. The drop is the first time in more than 10 years.
“There has been a decrease in early induction cesarean sections mostly due to new quality improvement programs in hospitals to prevent early deliveries without medical indication,” said Fleischman.
Fleischman noted that about 45 percent of American women are induced before they’re ready to deliver and 22 percent of those end up with a cesarean delivery.
“Hopefully we’ll see these rates go statistically down even more in the coming years,” said Fleischman. “We have lots more work to do and more research to find causes and prevention strategies, that’s one reason we’re doing World Prematurity Day.”
To learn more about the World Prematurity Day, Fleischman encourages people to visit https://www.facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay