TUESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- After going up in both 2005 and 2006, the number of American teenagers having children dropped 2% between 2007 and 2008, federal health officials report.
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On the other hand, more women seem to be delaying motherhood until later in life, with a big jump in births for women in their 40s reported, along with declines in the birth rate for women in their 20s and 30s.
According to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, in 2008 there were 41.5 births per 1,000 teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, down from 42.5 in 2007 and 41.9 in 2006.
"In addition, overall births have declined," noted report coauthor Brady E. Hamilton, from the CDC's Division of Vital Statistics. "In 2007 it reached its record number and it's down 2% in 2008," he said.
Overall, there were 4,251,095 births in the United States in 2008, down from all-time high of 4,317,119 in 2007.
Hamilton believes recent financial concerns might be playing a role in the drop in births. "The downturn in the economy is associated with the downturn in births," he said.
Coauthor Stephanie J. Ventura, also from the CDC's Division of Vital Statistics, said the increase in teen births in 2005 and 2006 was worrisome, but the 2008 numbers suggest that it "wasn't a trend."
However, the drop in birth rates overall may well become a trend, she added. "For 2009 we have some provisional data and those numbers are down 2 to 3% as well -- for everybody," she said.
Added to those statistics is a shift upwards in the age at which American women are now embarking on motherhood. In 2008, birth rates for women aged 20 to 24 dropped 3%, fell by 2% among women aged 25 to 29, and declined by 1% for women in their 30s.
In fact, the only age group where births rose was for women in their 40s. The rate jumped by 4% for women aged 40 to 44 and rose slightly among women aged 45 to 49. The birth rate for women aged 40 to 44 now stands at 9.9 births per 1,000 women, the highest level since 1967, the report found.
According to the CDC's Hamilton, this is a continuation of a trend that has been going on for several years, with many American women postponing childbirth as they juggle motherhood and careers.
Other key findings include:
- The fertility rate in 2008 was 2,085.5 births per 1,000 women, 2% less than the 2007 rate.
- The birth rate for unmarried women dropped almost 2% from 2007 to 2008. However, the total number of births to unmarried women continued to rise between 2007 and 2008.
- The rate of cesarean delivery rose for the 12th straight year to 32.3% in 2008. The increases were seen for women of all ages and most race and ethnic groups.
- The rate of low birth weight infants was unchanged between 2007 and 2008 at 8.2%.
- There was a small drop in low birth weight among black infants (from 13.8 to 13.7%).
Dr. Lawrence Friedman, professor and director of the division of adolescent medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, noted that the birth rate among Hispanic teens had dropped significantly, as well. "That is perhaps a reflection of their mores that are [now] less controlled by family members and religion and perhaps more Americanized," he speculated.
In addition, overall there has been a reduction in sexual activities among teens, Friedman said, and the decrease in teen pregnancy "may also reflect increasing condom use."
Also, teens may be engaging in alternative sexual activities, Friedman suggested. "Maybe withholding the intercourse activities that cause pregnancy, while still engaging in other sex -- mutual masturbation, oral sex, even anal sex as a form of contraception," he said.
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SOURCES: Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D.; Stephanie J. Ventura, M.A.; both Division of Vital Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Lawrence Friedman, M.D., professor and director, division of adolescent medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; April 6, 2010, CDC report, Births: Preliminary Data for 2008