For Mother’s Day, we take a look at trends in birth rates and breastmilk substitutes in the United States and around the world.
How many moms are there in the United States? The census indicates that there are about 85 million.
Statistics from recent years: According to figures from February Nation’s Vital Statistics Report3,613,647 births were recorded in the United States in 2020, down 4% from 2019. The overall fertility rate decreased 4% from 2019 to 56.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years old in 2020.
The birth rate of women aged 15 to 19 fell by 8% between 2019 and 2020. The birth rate of women aged 20 to 44 rose from 2% to 5% between 2019 and 2020. The index total fertility rate fell to 1,641.0 births per 1,000 women in 2020. Birth rates declined for married and unmarried women from 2019 to 2020.
Prenatal care: The percentage of women who started antenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy increased to 77.7% in 2020.
Smokers: The percentage of all women who smoked during pregnancy decreased to 5.5%.
Cesareans: The cesarean delivery rate increased to 31.8% in 2020. Cesarean delivery continued to be higher among older women than among younger mothers; women aged 40 and over were more than twice as likely to deliver by caesarean section (47.3%) as women under 20 (19.4%).
Teen birth rate: In 2020, the birth rate for teens ages 15 to 19 fell in 31 states, with declines ranging from 5% for Pennsylvania and North Carolina to 19% for Montana. Rates were essentially unchanged in the remaining 18 states and Washington, DC, and increased in one state: Maine.
Married and single: The birth rate for unmarried women was 38.6 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2020, down 3% from 2019. The extramarital birth rate in 2020 was 25% lower than the peak of 51.8 in 2007 and 2008. The rate for married women also fell in 2020, by 4% to 80.8 per 1,000 married women aged 15-44, from 84.0 in 2019.
The pandemic and mothers
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact life-saving events. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that analyzed US birth trends based on provisional 2020 data found that the number of births declined for each month from 2019 to 2020, with declines over observed for these months in the second half of 2020 (6%) compared to the first half (2%).
Twins and triplets
The twin birth rate in 2020 was 31.1 twins per 1,000 births, down 3% from the 2019 rate of 32.1 and down 8% from the 2014 high of 33, 9. The twinning rate (twin births per 1,000 total births) increased by 76% from 1980 to 2009 (from 18.9 to 33.2 per 1,000), was generally stable from 2009 to 2012, then increased in 2013 and 2014 before starting to decline. The 2020 rate is the lowest in nearly two decades (the 2020 rate was 31.1).
The multiple birth rate of triplets and higher order (triplet/plus) was 79.6 per 100,000 births in 2020, down 9% from 2019 (87.7). The birth rate of triplets/plus in 2020 is down 59% from the peak in 1998 (193.5) and the lowest rate in three decades.
Of 3.61 million births in 2020, 108 mothers had quadruplets and 29 quintuplets or more.
In the news
Last month the World Health Organization published a report on the extent of the mismarketing of infant formula in the world. The report shows how formula companies are paying social media platforms and influencers to gain direct access to pregnant women and mothers at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. The global formula industry, worth $55 billion a year, targets new mothers with personalized social media content that is often not recognizable as advertising.
This pervasive marketing increases purchases of breastmilk substitutes and therefore deters mothers from exclusively breastfeeding, as recommended by the WHO.
“The promotion of commercial formula should have been stopped decades ago,” said Dr Francesco Branca, director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety. “The fact that formula companies are now using even more powerful and insidious marketing techniques to increase sales is inexcusable and must be stopped.”
The report summarizes the results of new research that sampled and analyzed 4 million social media posts about infant feeding published in 2021. These posts reached 2.47 billion people and generated more than 12 million likes, shares or comments.
Breastfeeding Rates in the United States
Breastfeeding has many known health benefits for infants, children and mothers and is a key strategy for improving public health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months with continued breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods for at least 1 year.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention