US Births Climb But Aren’t As High As They Were Pre-Pandemic

NEW YORK — U.S. births bumped up last year, but the number of babies born was still lower than before the coronavirus pandemic.

This was somewhat of a rebound after 2020, the year that saw the biggest drop in births in almost 50 years.

According to Tuesday’s government report, there were 86,000 less births in 2019 than the year before.

“We’re still not returning to pre-pandemic levels,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

U.S. births had been declining for more than a decade before COVID-19 hit, and “I would expect that we would continue to see small, modest decreases,” she said.

Officials think last year’s uptick reflects births from pregnancies that had been put off during the uncertain early days of the pandemic. Brady Hamilton from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that although deliveries dropped significantly in January 2021 they improved over time. The increase in deliveries was largely due to older mothers.

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“These are births that were postponed,” said Hamilton, lead author of the new report.

This report was based upon a thorough review of almost all birth certificates from last year.

Here are some of the most important findings

— Nearly 3.7 million births were reported last year, up from the roughly 3.6 million recorded in 2020.

— Birth rates dropped again for teens and for women younger than 25, but rose 3% for women in their early 30s, 5% for women in their late 30s, and 3% for women in their early 40s.

— Birth rates rose 1% for Hispanic women and 3% for white women. They fell by 1% in Asian women and Black women and 3% in Black and Native American women. That may reflect the pandemic’s harsher impact on the health and lives of some racial groups, experts said.

—The U.S. was once among only a few developed countries with a fertility rate that ensured each generation had enough children to replace itself — about 2.1 kids per woman. But it’s been sliding, and in 2020 dropped to about 1.6, the lowest rate on record. The rate rose slightly to almost 1.7 last year.

—The percentage of infants born small and premature — at less than 37 weeks — rose 4%, to about 10.5%. It was the highest it’s been since 2007.

The premature birth rate had declined slightly in 2020, and health officials aren’t sure why the increase occurred. But older moms are more likely to have preterm births, as are women infected with COVID-19, said the CDC’s Joyce Martin, a study co-author.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. All content remains the responsibility of the Associated Press.

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