Multiple Birth Rate Declining, CDC Study Shows
The National Center for Health Statistics yesterday released a study, titled, "Births: Final Data for 1999," showing that for the first time in a decade, the rate of multiple births, defined as births of three or more children, has decreased, the Los Angeles Times reports. Multiple births, typically the result of fertility treatments, declined 4% from 194 live births per 100,000 in 1998 to 185 in 1999. Analysts attribute the decline to improvements in fertility techniques. In the early years of in vitro fertilization, doctors implanted into a woman's uterus as many as seven embryos; now "as a rule," doctors implant no more than four embryos out of concern that
multiple-birth infants face a huge risk of complications such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Multiples generally weigh half of what a "typical" single birth infant weighs and are born on average six weeks earlier. The infant mortality rate for multiple births is also 10 times higher than for single births, according to Joyce Martin, a CDC expert on multiple births. The report "suggests that refinements in reproductive health technology may be starting to have an impact," Martin said, adding that it will be difficult to identify a "trend" until the figures from 2000 are collected and analyzed. The report also found that while births of triplets-plus are down, births of twins continued to be more common, with 28.9 live births per 100,000 in 1999, a rise of 3% over 1998. The rate of twin births has risen more than 25% over the last decade (Cimons, Los Angeles Times, 4/18).
In 1999, the birth rate among women ages 15 to 19 reached its lowest level since modern record keeping began in 1940, the NCHS report also found. For the first time in recent history, the rate fell below 50 live births per 1,000 teenage women to 49.6 births, reflecting a 20% decrease from the 1991 rate of 62.1 births per 1,000 teen women (Rubin, USA Today, 4/18). The 1999 rate broke the previous low of 50.2 births per 1,000 set in 1986. "Teen sexual activity has leveled off compared to the increases we saw in the previous couple of decades. Also, teens who are sexually active are more likely to be using contraception," demographer Stephanie Ventura said. Ventura added that the "strong economic period" may have "encouraged" teens to put off pregnancy "in order to pursue education and jobs" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/18). Bill Albert, spokesperson for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said that STDs and "AIDS in particular" have also played a role in reducing sexual activity and increasing safe-sex practices. He also credited parents for "stepping up to the plate" and talking with their children about sexual health. And while Albert said the teen birth rate was "going in the right direction," he noted that it was still "too high" (USA Today, 4/18).