Updated May 24, 2022 - Health

U.S. birth rate rises for first time since 2014

Photo: Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

The U.S. birth rate went up for the first time since 2014, in a marked reversal of the decline seen earlier in the pandemic, according to newly released CDC data.

Driving the news: U.S. births had been declining by an average of 2% every year since 2014, and plunged 4% in the early phase of the pandemic, from 2019 to 2020, per the report.

The big picture: More than 3.6 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2021, a 1% increase from 2020 levels.

  • The increased birth rate in 2021 spanned all age groups over 25, while falling for women aged 15-24 and remaining the same in the 10-14 age group.

The state of play: The percentage of premature births also hit its highest reported level since representative national data became available, according to the data.

  • The rise in preterm birth rates (defined as less than 37 weeks gestation) comes amid an increase in pregnancy-related death and is another sign of health disparities weighing especially hard on communities of color.
  • The overall cesarean delivery rate also increased to 32.1% from 31.8% in 2020.
Percentage change in U.S. early births since 2007
Data: CDC; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The big picture: There could be multiple reasons for the trend lines, including the underlying health of the mother, access to care, socioeconomic factors and the use of fertility treatments.

  • But the news comes amid a growing shortage of obstetricians that's left millions living in areas with limited care.
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