Krisha McCoy, MS
In the US, about four million babies are born each year. Compared to women of generations past, women today are waiting longer to have babies, receiving more prenatal care, and having more
In 1970, women, on average, had their first baby when they were 21.4 years old. This average age has increased to 25.4 years old.
While most births still occur in women in their 20s, women have been waiting longer to start their families. From 1970 to 2006, the number of women having their first baby at age 35 or older has increased nearly eight times.
Not only are women putting off having their first baby, but births to teenage girls are also at lower levels. Approximately 37% more teenage girls had babies in the 1970s than in 2000.
How old you will be when you have your first child may be related to where you live. The age at which women have their firstborn varies by state. For example, the average woman’s age at first childbirth ranged from a high of 27.7 years in Massachusetts to a low of 22.6 years in Mississippi.
Compared with their predecessors, women today are more likely to receive prenatal care, which is associated with healthier babies and fewer pregnancy-related complications. In 2008, about 71% of women received prenatal care in their first trimester.
In 2011, the number of children a woman will give birth to over her lifetime was 1.9 children. The rate declined for nearly all race and Hispanic origin groups.
In 2010, for every 1,000 girls that are born, 1048 boys were born.
The number of women having cesarean sections (C-sections) increased between 1996 and 2009. However, the rate has been declining ever since. Cesarean sections now account for about 33% of deliveries.
Data from 2011 found that the number of babies born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation) has decreased to 11.72% of all births. There was also a small decrease in the percentage of low birth weight babies (accounting for 8.1%).
Births: final data for 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Births: preliminary data for 2011. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Livingston G, D'Vera C. The new demography of American motherhood. Pew Research Center website. Available at:
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1586/changing-demographic-characteristics-american-mothers. Published May 6, 2010. Accessed November 15, 2012.
NCHS data brief: delayed childbearing: more women are having their first child later in life. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db21.htm. Published August 2009. Accessed November 15, 2012.
Prenatal care. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db21.htm. Updated August 2009. Accessed November 15, 2012.
Prenatal care. Health Resources and Services Administration website. Available at: http://mchb.hrsa.gov/chusa11/hsfu/pages/312pc.html. Updated 2011. Accessed November 15, 2012.
Ventura S, Mathews TJ, Hamilton B. Births to teenagers in the United States 1940-2000. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2001;49(10).
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
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