Birth rate rises for first time in 7 years, number of births fell an average of 2% a year before

The number of births has increased in the United States for the first time in seven years, according to a new federal report.

Provisional data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics revealed that there were 3,659,289 babies born in 2021, a 1% increase from 2020.

It also marks the first increase in births since 2014. Prior to this report, the number of births had fallen by an average of 2% per year.

The report did not explain why the number of births increased, but Pew Research Center polls suggested that Americans delayed childbirth in the first year of the pandemic due to public health and the economic uncertainty, so the increase in numbers could be the result of a rebound.

“When it comes to fertility behavioral changes, we are limited,” Dr. Brady Hamilton, of the NCHS Vital Statistics Division and lead author of the report, told ABC News. “This is where you need an investigation into what’s behind the decision-making process.”

The report also showed that the fertility rate – the number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 – was 56.6. That’s up from 56 in 2020 and the first increase since 2014, according to the CDC.

However, the total fertility rate – the number of births a hypothetical group of 1,000 people would have over their lifetime – was 1,663.5 births per 1,000 women.

This is still below what experts call the replacement level, the level a population needs to replace itself, which is 2,100 births per 1,000 women.

The team observed that birth rates among women aged 25 and older increased while they decreased among those aged 24 and younger.

“It kind of suggests [that] when we saw the drop in births from 2019 to 2020, probably a lot of births were postponed,” Hamilton said. “People were waiting to see what was going on [with the pandemic] and rates increased in older women because they may have had this child.”

Among adolescents aged 15 to 19, the birth rate fell by 6%, from 15.4 per 1,000 to 14.4 per 1,000, a record for this age group.

Teenage births have been falling steadily since 2007 by an average of about 7% until last year.

“When you look at it over time, it’s down 77% since 1991 and down 65% since 2017. It’s amazing,” Hamilton said. “It’s certainly good news. And it will be interesting to see when we enter next year if that continues.”

Meanwhile, for tweens and teens ages 10 to 14, the birth rate was 0.2 per 1,000, unchanged since 2015, the report said.

Additionally, the researchers also looked at births by race and found that white and Hispanic women each saw the number of births increase by about 2% from 2020 to 2021.

Meanwhile, Black and Asian women saw their births decrease by 2.4% and 2.5%, respectively, over the same period, while Native American/Alaska Native women saw their number decrease by 3.2%.

The report also looked at the type of delivery and how early the babies were born.

Data showed that 32.1% of babies were born by caesarean section in 2021, up from 31.8% in 2020 and the second consecutive increase after rates fell from 2009 to 2019.

The percentage of C-sections increased among all racial and ethnic groups, with the highest percentage seen among black women, rising from 36.3% to 36.8%.

Although cesarean sections can reduce the risk of death in women with high-risk pregnancies, they are associated with complications such as infections or blood clots, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The rate of premature births also increased by 4% in 2021, from 10.09% to 10.48%, the highest rate reported since 2007. Increases have been seen in babies born prematurely. i.e. before 34 weeks of gestation, and later before term, i.e. 34 weeks. at 37 weeks gestation.

Premature babies are at higher risk for feeding, breathing, vision and hearing problems, as well as behavioral problems.

“Any time you see an increase in preterm births, it’s concerning,” Joyce Martin, of the Division of Vital Statistics and co-author of the report, told ABC News. “And we’ve seen an increase in premature babies, and they’re at a greater risk than later babies of not surviving the first year of life.”

Martin said the cause of the rising premature birth rate was unclear, but mothers under 18 and over 35 were more likely to have premature babies.

“And we’ve seen an increase in the birth rate of older mothers. It’s not yet clear if that’s influencing that change,” she said.

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