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Div. of Media Relations
1600 Clifton Road
MS D-14
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3286
Fax (404) 639-7394

June 6, 2002
Contact: CDC/NCHS Press Office
(301) 458-4800

Press Release

HHS Report Shows Teen Birth Rate Falls to New Record Low in 2001

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today released a new report showing birthrates among teenagers fell for the 10th straight year to a new record low in 2001.

"This is an important milestone in our fight against teen pregnancy," Secretary Thompson said. "The research shows us that when teens postpone parenthood, they improve their lives and the lives of their children. While we've seen remarkable progress, we must continue our efforts in local communities to reach teens with the message that everyone benefits when they wait until they are truly ready to start a family."

Prepared by HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2001," shows the teen birthrate dropped 5 percent last year, from 48.5 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2000 to 45.9 in 2001. Since 1991, the teen birthrate has declined 26 percent.

Progress was greatest among younger teens; the birthrate for teenagers 15-17 years of age fell 8 percent in 2001, and has dropped 35 percent since 1991. The rate for teens 18-19 years of age dropped 4 percent in 2001 and has fallen 20 percent since 1991.

The reduction in teen birthrates from 2000 to 2001 was greatest among black teenagers (8 percent). Since 1991, the rates for black teenagers 15-19 years have dropped 37 percent. Between 2000 and 2001, birthrates for teens declined among all race and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic white teenagers (7 percent); Asian or Pacific Islander teens (5 percent); American Indian teens (3 percent); and Hispanic teens (2 percent).

In addition, while the overall number of births to unmarried women rose slightly in 2001, births to unmarried teens declined.

The prevention of teen births has important health consequences for both the teen mother and her infant. Teenagers are least likely to receive timely prenatal care, more likely to smoke when pregnant, and more likely to have a low birth weight infant.

Based on approximately 96 percent of birth certificates reported to the states last year, the CDC report also shows a 7 percent increase in the cesarean delivery rate between 2000 and 2001. Nearly a quarter of all births (24.4 percent) were delivered by cesarean method in 2001, up from 22.9 percent in 2000. After a steady decline in cesarean deliveries from 1989 to 1996, there has been a 17 percent increase over five years.

The primary cesarean rate (births to women with no previous cesarean) increased 5 percent, from 16.1 percent in 2000 to 16.9 percent in 2001. The primary cesarean rate has increased 16 percent in the last four years. Meanwhile, the rate of vaginal births after previous cesarean fell 20 percent between 2000 and 2001, and has fallen 72 percent since 1996.

Other findings of the report include:

  • A total of 4,040,121 births were reported in the United States in 2001, a slight drop from the 2000 total of 4,058,814.

  • The birthrate for women ages 20-24 declined 2 percent in 2001, reversing a slight increase in the rate over the past five years. Birthrates were up among women ages 25 and older.

  • The rate of births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 declined slightly between 2000 and 2001. However, the proportion of births to unmarried women rose slightly in 2001, from 33.2 percent in 2000 to 33.4 percent in 2001.

  • The percentage of women receiving early prenatal care improved to 83.4 percent in 2001, up from 83.2 percent in 2000. While no change was reported in prenatal care utilization among non-Hispanic white women, improvements were noted for black and Hispanic women.

  • The rate of low birthweight rate babies held steady at 7.6 percent, unchanged since 1998.

"This report provides us with very timely information about some of our most important maternal and infant health indicators," CDC Acting Director David Fleming, M.D., said. "While we've made excellent progress in reducing teen births and in improving the number of expectant women who receive timely prenatal care, much work remains - last year almost a half million teens gave birth, and one of every four black and Hispanic mothers did not receive timely prenatal care."

The report is available on CDC's National Center for Health Statistics Web site at:

More information about HHS' efforts to reduce teen pregnancy is available at


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

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This page last updated June 6, 2002

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