After a weekend spent obsessing about England's adorable new princess, it's time to think about babies right here in the United States. And some new figures published today in Pediatrics are reason enough for us to pop open our own bottles of bubbly.
Most notably, the teenage birth rate dropped an astonishing 10 percent, to 26.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19, according to a summary of U.S. vital statistics between 2012 and 2013. Though it's a continuation of a long-standing trend, "that's a pretty large drop for anything in one year," Michelle Osterman, health statistician for the CDC/National Center for Health Statistics, told Parents.
Other promising news? Fewer women are delivering by c-section. The report, a joint effort between the NCHS and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found a decrease in the cesarean delivery rate, from 32.8 percent in 2012 to 32.7 percent in 2013. Okay, that's small, but it's the first drop in 15 years, Osterman points out.
And though still relatively high compared to other industrialized countries, the U.S. infant mortality rate is improving ever so slightly, too, (5.96 per 1,000 live births in 2013 vs. 5.98 in 2012), and the report found that the declines "were greatest among geographic race/ethnic groups that have traditionally had much higher than average infant mortality rates." Plus, for the seventh year in a row, the preterm birth rate fell to 11.39 percent, and the low birth weight rate dropped to 8.02 percent.
As in years past, the birth and fertility rates are on the decline. Our overall birth rate in the U.S. fell 1 percent, to 3,932,181 births, and our fertility rate dropped 1 percent to its lowest rate ever reported: 62.5 births per 1,000 women. The figures also shed light on who, exactly, is giving birth. As it turns out, twentysomethings are having fewer babies, thirtysomethings are having more, and women 40-44 are delivering about the same number. Similiarly, fewer unmarried women are giving birth—down from 40.7 in 2012 to 40.6 in 2013.
The annual summary is all about the numbers—the NCHS won't offer explanations for the rises and falls—but I think the picture painted here is a fairly positive one. Sure, we may not be fíªting a new monarch, but fewer moms are undergoing the knife and more of our babies are being born healthy—and that's something worth celebrating.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
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