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Birth Rates Rise for Women Aged 30-44

More Older and Unmarried Moms in 2003, Says CDC
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WebMD Health News

Nov. 23, 2004 -- More older and unmarried women became moms in 2003, according to the latest U.S. birth rate statistics.

The numbers come from the CDC's new report, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2003," and include virtually all of last year's U.S. births, which were recorded by state vital statistics offices.

Birth Rate Age Trends

Women aged 35-39 had a birth rate increase of 6%, reaching 43.8 births per 1,000 women. There was also a 5% birth rate increase for women aged 40-44, with 8.7 births per 1,000 women.

"The rates for women aged 35-39 years and 40-44 years have been increasing continuously since 1978 and 1985, respectively," says the CDC.

In addition, the birth rate for women aged 30-34 years rose 4%, reaching 95.2 births per 1,000 women.

The older-mom trend stopped at age 44. The birth rate held steady for women aged 45-49 at 0.5 births per 1,000 women.

Although women in their 30s and early 40s had the greatest percentage increases in birth rates, the highest birth rate occurred among women in their late 20s.

Women aged 25-29 had a birth rate of almost 116 births per 1,000 women, a 2% rise since 2002.

Fewer Younger Moms

In contrast, birth rates dropped for women in their teens and early 20s.

Women aged 20-24 had a 1% drop in their birth rate between 2002 and 2003, falling to about 103 births per 1,000 women.

The teen birth rate (aged 15-19) fell 3% since 2002, with about 42 births per 1,000 women.

"Rates fell for teenagers in all race and Hispanic origin groups, in many cases marking new record lows for the nation," says the report.

More Unmarried Mothers

Besides being older, more moms in 2003 were unmarried. The birth rate for unmarried women rose 3% in 2003 to almost 45 births per 1,000 women, according to the CDC. That rate includes all unmarried women aged 15-44.

"The proportion of births to unmarried women also increased in 2003 to 34.6%, compared with 34% in 2002," says the CDC.

Protecting Prenatal Health

The CDC report includes two positive pregnancy trends.

More women who gave birth in 2003 didn't smoke while they were pregnant.

"The proportion of mothers smoking during pregnancy continued to steadily decline in 2003, from 11.4% in 2002 to 11%," says the report.

In addition, a greater percentage of women got prenatal care within the first three months of pregnancy (84.1% in 2003 vs. 83.7% in 2002).

Birth Trends

Cesarean sections accounted for nearly 28% of all births in 2003. That's 6% more than in 2002, and one-third higher than in 1996, says the CDC.

The rate of women having their first cesarean delivery rose 6%, and the rate of women giving birth vaginally after a previous cesarean section dropped 16% in 2003.

Unrelated to means of delivery, more babies were born early and at low birth weights last year.

"The preterm rate increased from 12.1% to 12.3% and low birth weight rose from 7.8% to 7.9%," says the CDC.

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