News from the FDA/CDC

U.S. fertility rates fall to record lows


In 2019, the number of births in the United States dropped for the fifth consecutive year, as did the fertility rate, and birth rates for women under age 30 fell to record lows, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

To be exact – at least as exact as is possible from these provisional data – there were 3,745,540 births in the United States last year. That’s down about 1% from 2018 and is the lowest number of births since 1985, Brady E. Hamilton, PhD, and associates at the NCHS said in a rapid release report.

Births per 1,000 females aged 15-44 years, 1990-2019

As births go, so goes the general fertility rate. A 2% decrease from 2018 to 2019 left the fertility rate at its lowest point ever: 58.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years, compared with 59.1 per 1,000 in 2018, the investigators said, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System.

The total fertility rate – defined as “the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, based on the age-specific birth rate in a given year” – also reached a record low of 1,705 births per 1,000 women last year after falling 1% from 2018, they reported.

The falling birth rates did not include women over age 35. The birth rate among women aged 40-44 increased by 2% from 2018, as it reached 12.0 births per 1,000 in 2019. “The rate for this age group has risen almost continuously since 1985 by an average of 3% per year,” Dr. Hamilton and associates wrote.

The birth rate for women aged 30-34 years, 98.3 per 1,000, was down 1% from 2018 but was still the highest for any age category. Among younger women, rates all dropped to record lows: 16.6 (ages 15-19), 66.6 (ages 20-24), and 93.7 (ages 25-29), they said.

Preterm birth rates, on the other hand, rose for the fifth year in a row. The rate for 2019, 10.23% of all births, represents an increase of 2% over 2018 and is “the highest level reported in more than a decade,” the investigators noted.

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