Birth Rate Falling, but C-Sections on the Rise


Although birth rates declined in 2008, the rates of cesarean delivery increased to nearly a third of all births in 2008, according to a new report.

Rates of cesarean delivery rose to nearly a third of all births in 2008, marking the 12th consecutive increase, according to a report that will be published in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

Developed by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the report—Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: 2008—also shows that record birth rates in the United States were reversed in 2008, and that death rates for children ages one to 19 years decreased significantly.

The annual summary is a long-standing feature in Pediatrics. Highlights of this year’s report are as follows:

  • In 2008, there were 4,251,095 births in 2008, about 2% fewer than in 2007, which saw the highest number ever registered for the US.
  • Births to teens decreased 2%, in contrast to increased rates in 2006 and 2007.
  • Birth rates decreased for women aged 20 to 39, and increased for women aged 40 to 49. The 1% decline seen in the 35 to 39 age group was the first since 1978.
  • The total cesarean-delivery rate rose to 32.3% in 2008—this rate has climbed by 56% since 1996.
  • The preterm birth rate was 12.3%, marking a 3% decline since 2007, and the low birth weight rate was unchanged.
  • The infant mortality rate was 2% lower than in 2007. Researchers cited unintentional injuries as the cause in 4.6% of infant deaths.
  • For all children ages one to 19 years, unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death, accounting for 38.8% of fatalities in 2008. Homicide was the second leading cause of death for this group.
  • The average life expectancy at birth in 2008 was 77.8 years.

The researchers also found that the total fertility rate decreased 2% in 2008 to 2085.5 births per 1,000 women, and the proportion of all births to unmarried women increased to 40.6% in 2008, up from 39.7% in 2007.

To read the Pediatrics report in its entirety, click here.

For more on this topic:

  • Rate of Premature Births in US Infants Falling (HCPLive)
  • Infant Mortality and African Americans (HHS Office on Minority Health)
  • The effects of gestational age and birth weight on false-positive newborn-screening rates (Pediatrics)
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