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Premature Birth Rate Is Dropping

Study Also Shows a Decline in the Birth Rate for Teenagers

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Guttmacher said in a telephone news briefing that the federal report presents 40 indicators of child well-being, including family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.

He says the drop in preterm births was mostly in later pregnancy -- those that occur at 34-36 weeks of gestation.

He says it's unclear why the rate of preterm births dropped, but that this matter is being investigated with a view toward further reducing the preterm birth rate.

Sondik says the decline in preterm births was seen in each of the three largest racial and ethnic groups, and that though small, "even a slight decrease in preterm birth is positive."

Despite improvements, however, he says about 136,000 babies were born to mothers 15-27 in 2008.

Unmarried Mothers

The research also sheds light on trends for unmarried mothers:

  • Children born to single mothers are at a higher risk for adverse consequences, such as being born at a low birth weight and living in poverty.
  • 41% of all births in 2008 were to unmarried mothers, up from 40% in 2007 and more than double the percentage of 30 years ago.
  • Though the number and percentage of all births to unmarried women have increased, the birth rate among unmarried women 15-44 decreased from 53 births for every 1,000 unmarried women in 2007 to 52 in 2008. The decrease is attributable to the fact that the total number of unmarried women in that age range increased.
  • 9% of children under 18 in 2008 had asthma, unchanged from 2007.
  • During 2007-2008, 19% of children 6-17 were obese, about the same as the 2005-2006 period.
  • In 2008, some 69% of recent high school grads had enrolled in college the fall after getting their diplomas, considerably higher than 49% in 1980.
  • The percentage of children 5-11 years old with untreated dental cavities declined from 27% in 1999-2004 to 20% in 2005-2008.
  • For youths 12-17 years old, the percentage with untreated dental cavities declined from 19% to 12% in the same two time periods.

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