Fewer women are getting pregnant and having babies in the United States, perhaps due to better contraceptive use, according to government statistics released Friday.
The number of pregnancies in 1999 dropped 7% from the peak in 1990, and there was a 9% decline in the birth rate, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The abortion rate also dropped.
The report said there were 6.28 million U.S. pregnancies in 1999 compared with 6.78 million in 1990.
"The 1999 total pregnancy count includes about 3.96 million live births, 1.31 million induced abortions, and 1 million fetal losses (miscarriages and stillbirths)," the NCHS, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
From 1990 to 1999, the agency said, there was a 9% decline in the birth rate (from 70.9 to 64.4 births per 1,000 women age 15 to 44) and a 22% drop in the abortion rate (from 27.4 to 21.4 per 1,000), with an overall 12% decline in the pregnancy rate from 115.6 to 102.1 per 1,000. The figures show not only that total pregnancies are down, but that they are down in proportion to the population of women of childbearing age.
The highest pregnancy rate was in women age 20 to 24. About 1 in 6 women in their 20s was pregnant in 1999, the report said. "Teen pregnancy rates have reached historic lows, dropping 25% from 1990 to 1999. The birth rate dropped 19% and the abortion rate was down 39% in this age group," it said.
The pregnancy rate for unmarried women declined as well.
"The abortion rate dropped by about 25% for both married and unmarried women through the 1990s," the report said.
Stephanie Ventura, a demographer who helped write the report, said the statistics seem to point in a clear direction.
"It probably suggests a decline in unwanted pregnancies," she said. "That is probably reflecting better use of contraception and more effective means -- some of the new hormonal methods that have come out."