Objectives: This report presents 1998 data on U.S. births according to a wide variety of characteristics. Data are presented for maternal demographic characteristics including age, live-birth order, race, Hispanic origin, marital status, and educational attainment; maternal lifestyle and health characteristics (medical risk factors, weight gain, and tobacco and alcohol use); medical care utilization by pregnant women (prenatal care, obstetric procedures, complications of labor and/or delivery, attendant at birth, and method of delivery); and infant health characteristics (period of gestation, birthweight, Apgar score, abnormal conditions, congenital anomalies, and multiple births). Also presented are birth and fertility rates by age, live-birth order, race, Hispanic origin, and marital status. Selected data by mother's State of residence are shown including teenage birth rates and total fertility rates, as well as data on month and day of birth, sex ratio, and age of father. Trends in fertility patterns and maternal and infant characteristics are described and interpreted.
Methods: Descriptive tabulations of data reported on the birth certificates of the 3.94 million births that occurred in 1998 are presented.
Results: Birth and fertility rates increased in 1998 by about 1 percent, the first increase since 1990. Birth rates for teenagers fell 2-5 percent. Rates for women in their twenties increased 1-2 percent each, whereas rates for women in their thirties rose 2-4 percent. All measures of childbearing by unmarried women increased in 1998; the number of births rose 3 percent, the birth rate increased about 1 percent while the percent of births that were to unmarried women rose to 32.8 percent. Smoking by pregnant women overall dropped again in 1998, but continued to increase among teenagers. Improvements in prenatal care utilization continued. The cesarean delivery rate increased for the second year after declining for 7 consecutive years. The proportion of multiple births continued to rise; higher order multiple births (e.g., triplets, quadruplets) rose by 13 percent in 1998, following a 14 percent rise from 1996 to 1997. Key measures of birth outcome--the percents of low birthweight and preterm births--increased. These changes are in large part the result of increases in multiple births.