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Birth Statistics in the United States

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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In 2002, there were 4,021,726 babies born in the U.S. Compared to women of generations past, women today are waiting longer to have babies, receiving more prenatal care, having more babies overall, and having more cesarean deliveries.

Women Are Waiting Longer

In 1970, women, on average, had their first baby when they were 21.4 years old. While over half of all births still occur in women in their 20s, women have been waiting longer and longer to start their families since 1970. In 2001, the average age a woman was when she started her family was 24.8 years old, and the average age was 25.1 in 2002.

Why the increase? First, the number of women having children in their 30s and early 40s is rising. Birth rates for women in ages 30-44 increased by about 5% from 2002 to 2003.

Not only are women putting off having their first baby for a few years, but births to teenage girls are also at the lowest levels in almost 60 years. In 1994, almost 13,000 girls ages 10-14 gave birth to live babies. By 2002, this number had declined to just over 7,000.

How old you will be when you have your first child may be related to where you live. The age at which women have their firstborn varies significantly by state. In 2000, the average woman’s age at first childbirth ranged from a high of 27.8 years in Massachusetts to a low of 22.5 years in Mississippi.

More Women Are Receiving Prenatal Care

Compared with their predecessors, women today are more likely to receive prenatal care, which is associated with healthier babies and fewer pregnancy-related complications. In 2001, 83% of women received prenatal care in their first trimester (up from 76% in 1990), and only 1% did not receive any care at all.

Women Are Having More Children, and More Boys Than Girls

Today, the average number of children a woman has is at its highest in almost 30 years. In the 1970s and 1980s, women gave birth to fewer than two children on average. But in 2001, women gave birth to an average of 2.1 children. This number was higher among Hispanic women, who gave birth to an average of 3.1 children.

For more than 60 consecutive years, more boys have been born than girls in the US. In 2002, 94,232 more boys than girls were born, a number that has been fairly consistent since 1940. Interestingly, the more children a woman has, the more likely she is to give birth to an equal number of boys and girls.

Cesarean Deliveries Are on the Rise

Another trend in the US is the growing number of women who are having cesarean sections (c-sections). In the early 1990s, the rate of c-sections in the US declined, while the number of vaginal births after previous cesarean (VBAC) steadily increased. But since 1996, because of increasing safety concerns, c-sections have been on the rise and VBACs have been declining. Today it is estimated that c-sections account for one in every four births in the US.


Births: final data for 2000. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSR . 2002;50(5).

Births: preliminary data for 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSR . 2004;53(9).

Births to 10-14 year-old mothers, 1990-2002: trends and health outcomes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSR . 2004;53(7).

Centers for Disease Control National Clearinghouse for Health Statistics. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/ .

Mean age of mother, 1970-2000. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSR . 2002;51(1).

Trend analysis of the sex ratio at birth in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSR . 2005;53(20).

Trends in cesarean birth and vaginal birth after previous cesarean, 1991-1999. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NVSR . 2001;49(13).


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org /

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Last reviewed November 2005 by Joan K. Lingen, MD, FACOG

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.