The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its report “Births: Final Data for 1999” April 17 which documents a 3 percent decline in teen birth rates since 1998 and a 20 percent decline since 1991. The teen birth rate, 49.6 births per 1,000 teenage women, is now recorded at its lowest level in the United States since collection of these statistics began. Demographers and statisticians attributed the decline to several factors including success of teen pregnancy prevention programs and the possible inclination to pursue higher education and jobs induced by the strong economy. In general, the CDC finds that the median age for first-time mothers has continued to increase since 1972 while the birth rates for women in their thirties and forties has increased.
The number of higher order multiple births, births of triplet/+, has declined 4% since 1998 from 194 per 100,000 live births to 184. Joyce Martin, co-author of the study, attributes this finding to improved fertility-enhancing treatments. As a result of advances in the field, doctors can implant fewer embryos into a woman’s uterus thereby reducing the likelihood of higher order multiple births. Multiples are at an increased risk for infant death and permanent disabilities than single births as multiples are usually born premature and/or of low birth weight.
Less encouraging were findings regarding cigarette smoking during pregnancy. Tobacco use among pregnant teens and women aged 20-24 years increased in 1999. Babies born to smokers are more likely to be of low birth weight than babies born to nonsmokers. In general, however, cigarette smoking while pregnant declined overall in 1999.