New CDC Birth Report Shows Teen Birth Rates Continue to Drop

Report Also Covers Key Aspects of Maternal and Infant Health

For Release: Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800


Births: Preliminary Data for 1999. 24 pp. (PHS) 2000-1120. [PDF – 170 KB]

The birth rate for teenagers declined 3 percent between 1998 and 1999, to reach a rate of 49.6 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 –- the lowest rate in the 60 years data on teen births have been recorded. The teen birth rate is down 20 percent from the most recent high in 1991, according to a new report from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The preliminary report also found a drop in the number of births to unmarried teens, record high levels of women receiving early prenatal care, a rise in the cesarean delivery rate, and no improvement in the percent of infants born at low birthweight. The report presents data for the nation as well as key indicators by state.

During the 1990s, teen birth rates declined among white, black, American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander and Hispanic women aged 15-19, with the largest decline a 30-percent drop among black teens. Hispanic teens reported the smallest decline of 13 percent. Between 1998 and 1999, the sharpest decline (6 percent) was for American Indian teenagers followed closely by a 5 percent drop for black teens.

“In the last few years, we’ve made remarkable progress in reducing the teen birth rate,” said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. “Parents, local communities, government and teens themselves have all been part of writing this success story. Everyone benefits when teens postpone pregnancy until they are ready to assume the responsibility and appreciate the wonder of raising children,” she said.

The drop in teen births was more pronounced among young teens ages 15-17, who registered a decline of 6 percent between 1998 and 1999. In addition, the number of births for the youngest teenage group, ages 10-14, dropped by 4 percent to the lowest level in 30 years.

The total number of births in the United States rose again in 1999 to about 3,958,000 and the fertility rate for women aged 15-44 also increased slightly. Birth rates for women aged 20-24 declined slightly between 1998 and 1999 while the rate for women aged 25-29 was up slightly. Birth rates for women in their thirties and forties continued to increase, with rates for women in their thirties the highest in three decades.

The report also shows that prenatal care continues to improve, with a slight increase in the percent of women who received early prenatal care, up from 82.8 percent in 1998 to 83.2 percent in 1999. This measure of prenatal care has shown steady progress during the 1990s, rising 10 percent since 1989. The increase in early prenatal care was most notable for black women and Hispanic women, with an increase of approximately 25 percent over the past decade.

“Prenatal care–the earlier, the better–means healthier mothers and babies,” said CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. “In prenatal visits, women and their health care providers can focus on the healthy habits and preventive services that are so important to mothers and infants,” he said.

The percent of infants born at low birth weight (7.6 percent) in 1999 was unchanged from the previous year. There has been a gradual upward trend in the percent of infants born at low birth weight since the mid-1980s.

The birth rate for unmarried women in 1999 was 1 percent lower than the previous year; however, the number of births to unmarried women was up about 1 percent due to the continued increase in the number of unmarried women of childbearing age. The number of births to unmarried teenagers was 2 percent lower in 1999 than in 1998.

The annual report, which also covers trends in health issues related to births, shows that cesarean delivery rates were up for the third year in a row in 1999, reversing a steady decline between 1989 and 1995. The rate of cesarean delivery increased by 4 percent from 1998 and 1999, up from 21.2 per 100 live births in 1998 to a 1999 rate of 22.0, continuing increases first noted in 1997.

The rise in the total cesarean rate was primarily fueled by an increase in cesareans to women who had not previously had one – up 4 percent between 1998 and 1999. Another factor contributing to the rise in the total cesarean rate was the marked decline in the rate of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), down 11 percent in the last year and 17 percent since 1996. The rise in the total cesarean rate was widespread – increases were observed among woman of all ages and races and in 45 of the 50 states. However, the preliminary report does not include data on maternal risk factors – which will be available later in the final data for 1999–to fully evaluate the factors involved in the increase.

“Births: Preliminary Data for 1999” is based on birth records filed in state vital statistics offices and reported to CDC through the National Vital Statistics System.