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Live Births and Delivery Type

Narrative

In 2010, there were 4 million live births in the United States and the birth rate among women aged 15–44 years was 64.1 births per 1,000, a decrease of 3 percent from 2009 and the lowest rate reported in over a decade.1 Overall birth rates were highest among mothers aged 25–29 years (108.3 live births per 1,000 women), followed by those aged 30–34 years (96.5 births per 1,000 women). Between 2009 and 2010, the birth rate declined or remained unchanged in every age group except for 40–44 years, which increased 2 percent to the highest level since 1967.1,2 The birth rates among teens aged 15–19 years and young women aged 20–24 years declined to the lowest levels ever reported (34.2 and 90.0 per 1,000, respectively). Only birth rates among women aged 30 years and older are higher now than in 1990.

The average age at first birth increased to 25.4 in 2010, an increase of 4 years since 1970.2,3 Asian/Pacific Islander women had the highest average age at first birth while American Indian/Alaska Native women had the lowest (29.1 and 22.3 years, respectively; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).1

The proportion of births delivered by cesarean section declined slightly from 32.9 percent in 2009 to 32.8 percent in 2010. This represents the first decline in cesarean delivery since 1996, when 20.7 percent of births were delivered by cesarean section. The U.S. cesarean delivery rate far exceeds the upper limit of 15 percent recommended by the World Health Organization.4 Healthy People 2020 has set national objectives to reduce the cesarean delivery rate by 10 percent among low-risk women giving birth for the first time and among low-risk women with a prior cesarean section.5 In 2010, 27.3 percent of low-risk women giving birth for the first time and 89.9 percent of low-risk women with a prior cesarean section delivered by cesarean (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).6

1 Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ, et al. Births: Final data for 2010. National Vital Statistics report; vol 61 no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012

2 Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2010. National Vital Statistics reports; vol 60 no 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011

3 Mathews TJ, Hamilton BE. Delayed childbearing: More women are having their first child later in life. NCHS data brief, no 21. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009

4 World Health Organization. Monitoring Emergency Obstetric Care: A Handbook. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization Press. 2009

5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. 2010 Natality File. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes in Pregnancy. Accessed 06/27/12.

Graphs

Data

Live Births per 1,000 Women, by Age, 1990-2010
Rate per 1,000 Women (log scale)
Total 15-19 Years 20-24 Years 25-29 Years 30-34 Years 35-39 Years 40-44 Years
Source: Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ, Osterman MJK, Wilson EC, Mathews TJ. Births: Final Data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Reports vol 61, Number 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics 2012.
1990 70.9 59.9 116.5 120.2 80.8 31.7 5.5
1995 64.6 56.0 107.5 108.8 81.1 34.0 6.6
2000 65.9 47.7 109.7 113.5 91.2 39.7 8.0
2005 66.7 39.7 101.8 116.5 96.7 46.4 9.1
2010 64.1 43.2 90.0 108.3 96.5 45.9 10.2

Births by Cesarean Delivery, 1990-2010

Percent of Live Births:

  • 1990: 22.7
  • 1995: 20.8
  • 2000: 22.9
  • 2005: 30.3
  • 2010: 32.8

Source: Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ, Osterman MJK, Wilson EC, Mathews TJ. Births: Final Data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Reports vol 61, Number 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics 2012.