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U.S. Pregnancy Rate Remains Low

According to a Centers for Disease Control report released earlier this month, the U.S. pregnancy rate was 103.2 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2005. The pregnancy rate was 11 percent below the 1990 peak of 115.8.

The CDC compiled the report using data collected at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and other government sources. Pregnancy statistics have been compiled annually by the CDC since 1976. This month’s report updates the information for 2005, the most recent year for which detailed national estimates for abortions are available.

Other key findings from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics report include:

  • Of the total 6.4 million pregnancies in 2005, 4.1 million were live births (64.6 percent), 1.2 million were induced abortions (12.5 percent) and 1.1 million were miscarriages or other fetal losses (18.3 percent).

  • The live birth rate was 66.7, the induced abortion rate was 19.4 and the fetal loss rate was 17.1. The abortion rate has continued to decline from a peak of almost 29 during the late 70s and much of the 80s. The fetal loss rate is about the same as in the early 1990s but is higher than a low of 13.4 in 1976.

  • Pregnancy rates are highest among women in their childbearing years; 20-24 years (163.3) and 25-29 years (168.6) but these rates have declined since 1990. The pregnancy rates among women 30-34 years is lower (135.6) than for women under age 30 but the rate has increased by 12 percent since 1990.

  • Although the pregnancy rate is much lower for women 35-39 years (77.4) and 40-44 years (17.4), both rates have steadily increased since the 1990s. Unfortunately, fetal losses in these advanced age groups are almost double that of women under age 30, indicating that bearing children later in life poses more risk to the fetus.

  • The pregnancy rate for teenagers fell by 40 percent during the 1990-2005 period to 70.6 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 -19 years. This decline is due to a reduction in both pregnancies and abortions.

  • The pregnancy rate declined much more rapidly from 1990 to 2005 for younger teenagers 15-17 years (48 percent) than for older teenagers 18-19 years (30 percent).

  • Although Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks had the highest pregnancy rates (146.3 and 139.2, respectively), the rate has dropped by 10.9 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively since 1990. The abortion rate for non-Hispanic blacks was double the national average at 37.2 percent of all pregnancies. Fetal losses were the highest among non-Hispanic whites at 18.3 percent of all pregnancies compared with a low of 14.0 percent for Hispanics.

  • During the 1990-2005 period, pregnancy rates for married women fell 8 percent; for unmarried women, the rate declined by 11 percent.

  • A woman had on average 3.17 pregnancies. For non-Hispanic whites, this number was lower at 2.65 but remained fairly constant since 2003. Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks had a higher average number of pregnancies at 4.26 and 4.18, respectively. This number has declined since 1990 for non-Hispanic blacks but has increased back to 1996 levels for Hispanics.

The Bottom Line

A positive trend is that fewer pregnancies are occurring in both younger (15-17 years) and older teenagers (18-19 years), especially among Hispanics and blacks. However, early pregnancy estimates for 2006 and 2007 indicate that the teenage pregnancies are again on the rise. What is driving this increase remains to be seen.

A recent report indicated that because of the recession, many couples were delaying having children. With the cost of living increasing every year, its no surprise that the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime is declining.

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