New Birth Report Shows More Moms Get Prenatal Care

For Release: Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800


Births: Final Data for 2001. NVSR Volume 51, No. 2. 103 pp. (PHS) 2003-1120. [PDF – 6.2 MB]

A new HHS report released today shows a significant increase in the number of women receiving prenatal care – especially among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women.

The report shows that 83 percent of women received timely (in the first trimester) prenatal care in 2001, up from 76 percent in 1990. In addition, only 1 percent of women did not receive any prenatal care in 2001. During this time period, timely prenatal care increased among all race and ethnic groups, but was particularly evident among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women.

“We’re continuing to make excellent progress in our efforts to have more women, particularly minority women, receive early prenatal care,” HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. “Timely prenatal care is one of the best ways to ensure the health of mothers and their infants, and we will continue working to expand access to this essential care for all Americans.”

The report, “Births: Final Data for 2001,” prepared by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that the percentage of Hispanic women who did not receive any prenatal care fell from 4.0 percent to 1.6 percent between 1990 and 2001, and the percentage of non-Hispanic black women who did not receive any prenatal care fell from 4.7 percent to 2.3 percent during the same time period.

“Good prenatal care protects a woman’s health not only during pregnancy but encourages good health habits—such as not smoking—which have life-long health benefits,” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said.

The report, based on birth certificates filed in State vital statistics offices and reported to CDC, tracks many other important indicators of maternal and infant health and contains other positive findings. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy continued to decline, to 12 percent in 2001, compared with 20 percent in 1989, when smoking was first reported on the birth certificate.

The teen birth rate declined for the 10th consecutive year in 2001, as first reported in preliminary data released earlier this year. Over the past decade, the decline was particularly significant for young teens, those 15-17 years of age, with the birth rate down by more than a third. For young black teens, the birth rate declined by nearly half.

The report also found that the percentage of infants born prematurely (at less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) rose to nearly 12 percent (11.9), its highest level in at least two decades. The rate of low birth weight climbed to 7.7 percent in 2001, up 13 percent from the mid-1980s. Some of the increase in low birth weight and preterm birth can be attributed to the rise in multiple births experienced over the past decade. Changes in obstetrical practice, such as greater reliance on induced labor and other efforts to safely manage delivery, may also be playing a role.

Other significant findings from the report include:

  • There were 4,025,933 babies born in 2001, 1 percent fewer than the year before. The birth rate declined from 14.7 to 14.5 births per 1,000 population from 2000 to 2001.
  • The twin birth rate rose in 2001. For the first time, twin births exceeded 3 percent of all births in the United States. Births to triplet and other higher-order multiple births rose 3 percent between 2000 and 2001.
  • Births to unmarried women accounted for 33.5 percent of all births in 2001. This percent has been inching up over time as married women are having fewer children and the number of unmarried women grows. The number of births to unmarried mothers increased to a record high of more than 1.3 million in 2001, although the birth rate among unmarried women of childbearing age (15-44) actually declined slightly between 2000 and 2001, from 45.2 per 1,000 in 2000 to 45.0 in 2001.
  • The proportion of births with induced labor has more than doubled since 1989. More than one in five births were induced in 2001.
  • Cesarean deliveries increased for the fifth consecutive year in 2001 to the highest level reported since at least 1989. The primary cesearean rate jumped 5 percent and the rate of vaginal birth after previous cesarean delivery fell 20 percent.

The report, “Births: Final Data for 2001,” can be found on CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Web site at CDC/NCHS Web site.