Objectives: This report presents 2002 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 characteristics (medical risk factors, weight gain, 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 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, 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 4.022 million births that occurred in 2002 are presented. Denominators for population-based rates are derived from the 2000 U.S. census. Rates for 1991-2001 may differ from those published previously based on the 1990 U.S. census.
Results: There were 4,021,726 live births in 2002, essentially unchanged from 2001. The birth rate, fertility rate, and total fertility rates all declined 1 percent in 2002. The teenage birth rate dropped 5 percent, reaching another record low. The birth rates for women 20-24 years declined, whereas the rate for women 25-29 years was stable. The birth rate for women 30-34 years declined, but the rate for women 35-44 years continued to rise. Births to unmarried women changed very little. Smoking during pregnancy was down again. The timeliness of prenatal care continued to improve. The cesarean delivery rate climbed to the highest level ever reported in the United States (26.1 percent) and the rate of vaginal birth after previous cesarean plummeted 23 percent to 12.6 percent. Preterm and low birthweight levels both rose for 2002. The twin birth rate continued to climb, but the rate of triplet/+ births was down slightly.