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US births in 2022 did not return to pre-pandemic levels

NEW YORK (AP) — Births in the United States held steady last year as fewer babies were born in the country than before the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

NEW YORK (AP) — Births in the United States held steady last year as fewer babies were born in the country than before the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Births to mothers 35 and older continued to rise, with the highest rates in that age group since the 1960s. But those gains were offset by record low birth rates to mothers in their teens and early 20s. , the CDC found. Their report is based on a review of more than 99% of birth certificates issued in the past year.

Just under 3.7 million babies were born in the US last year, about 3,000 fewer than the year before. Because the numbers are provisional and the change was small, officials consider births to have been “something like last year’s level,” said the CDC’s Brady Hamilton, the report’s lead author.

Births in the US were declining for more than a decade before COVID-19 hit, then fell 4% between 2019 and 2020. They rose about 1% in 2021, a rise experts attributed to the pregnancies that couples postponed in the early days of the pandemic.

More findings from the report:

— The highest birth rates are still seen in women in their 30s. The number of births to women of that age was basically unchanged from the previous year. Births were down slightly for women in their 20s, who have the second-highest birthrate.

— Births to Hispanic mothers increased 6% last year to exceed 25% of the US total. Births to white mothers fell 3% but still accounted for 50% of births. Births to black mothers fell 1% and were 14% of the total.

— The rate of births by cesarean section increased slightly, to 32.2% of births. That’s the highest level since 2014. Some experts worry that C-sections are being performed more often than medically necessary.

— The United States was once one of the few developed countries with a fertility rate that ensured that each generation would have enough children to replace itself: about 2.1 children per woman. But it has been falling, and in 2020 it fell to around 1.6, the lowest rate on record. It increased slightly in 2021, to almost 1.7, and stayed there last year.

More complete and detailed figures for 2022 are expected later this year. Those data should offer a better understanding of what happened in individual states and among different racial and ethnic groups, Hamilton said.

It can also show whether births were affected by the US Supreme Court decision last June that struck down Roe v. Wade, which allowed states to ban or restrict abortion. Experts estimate that almost half of pregnancies are unwanted, so limits on access to abortion could affect the number of births.

Whether such restrictions are having an effect on births did not appear in national data released Thursday.

Abortion restrictions may lead to higher birth rates in 2023, more likely among young women than older mothers, said Ushma Upadhyay, a reproductive health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. But even if there is an increase, it may not bring the nation back to pre-pandemic birth rates, given other trends, she added.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever go back there,” he said.

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The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Mike Stobbe, Associated Press



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