PODCAST: Interview with Elizabeth Gregory on Home Births During the Pandemic

December 10, 2021

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/podcasts/2021/20211210/20211210.htm

HOST: Though no historical data are available, it is widely accepted that most births prior to the 20th century occurred in the home.  With the arrival of the 20th century and the advances in modern medicine that came with it, home births became far less common – as low as 0.56% of all births in 2004.  But in 2020, driven at least in part by the pandemic, home births increased 22% from 2019, to 1.26% in 2020 – the highest percentage since at least 1990.

This week NCHS has released a new report documenting the increase in home births during the pandemic.  Joining us to discuss the findings in the report is the lead author of the study, Elizabeth Gregory…

HOST: Are women who give birth at the home – and their babies – more at risk for adverse outcomes?

EG: So, this report doesn’t address the safety of home births – what it does is it examines changes in home births before and during the COVID-19 pandemic by month and by race and Hispanic origin and state of residence of the mother.

HOST: Home births have been higher in recent years than 10-15 years ago, is that correct?

EG: Home births have been increasing for the last 15 years or so.  The pace of increase had slowed from 2014 to 2019, and then there was a large increase in 2020.

HOST: The data suggest the low mark for home births in the United States occurred around 2004, is that correct?

EG: Yes that’s correct, but it’s important to note that we don’t have comparable data on home births prior to the 1989 revision of the US standard certificate of live birth.  But for 1990 through 2020 the lowest percentage of home births which was 0.56% occurred in 2004.

HOST: So even though it’s accepted that back in the 19th century, for example, most births occurred in the home, we don’t really have data prior to 1989, is that correct?

EG: So for vital statistics data, previous to the 1989 revision the question for place of birth – the response could either be in hospital or not in hospital.  We don’t really have the more detailed information about where the birth may have occurred outside the hospital.

HOST: I see.  So the pandemic would help explain the sharp rise in 2020, but what explains the higher rates since 2004?

EG: We didn’t look at what might have caused the increases for those earlier years, but we did look at when and where the increases occurred for 2019 to 2020.  So for example, in 2019 to 2020 the percentage of home births rose 22% for all women, with increases ranging from 21 to 36% for the three largest race and Hispanic origin groups.  And the percentage of home births for all women increased for each month, March through December, peaking in May, and this pattern of home births by month was also generally observed for each of the three largest race and Hispanic origin groups.

HOST: What factors related to the pandemic accounted for the big increase in 2020?

EG: So other researchers have found that some reasons included: increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. combined with concerns about contracting COVID-19 while in the hospital… limitations or bans on support persons in the hospital… and the separation of infants from mothers suspected to have COVID-19.

HOST: What were some geographic differences we saw in 2020 as far as home births go?

EG: This report found increases in home births for the vast majority of states from 2019 to 2020.  The percentage of home births increased significantly in 40 states, with non-significant increases seen in an additional nine States and the District of Columbia.

HOST: What about race and ethnicity?  Were there similar increases in home births along those demographic lines?

EG: Historically non-Hispanic white women have been more likely to give birth at home, and this pattern continued into 2020.  However, increases ranging from 21 to 36% were seen for all of the three largest race and Hispanic origin groups from 2019 to 2020.

HOST: Any other topics in your study you’d like to mention?

EG: Yes, the report found that the percentage of home births rose for each month, March through December 2020, compared with the same months in 2019 and peaked in May.  And the timing of increases in home births generally corresponds with the initial surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States in late March and early April 2020.

HOST: Thanks for joining us Elizabeth.

EG: You’re welcome.

MUSICAL BRIDGE

HOST: December got off to a busy start with two reports focusing on children’s health, using 2020 data from the National Health Interview Survey.  The 2020 NHIS included questions on concussion, to measure both symptoms and diagnosis from a health care provider to provide a more complete understanding of the public health burden, as children with mild injuries may not see a doctor or receive a diagnosis.  On Dec. 1, NCHS released a new study on concussions and brain injuries among children in the U.S.  The new study found that nearly 7% of children in the U.S. under the age of 18 have had symptoms of a concussion or brain injury.  And 4% have been diagnosed with these conditions by a health care provider.   Boys are more likely than girls to have had these symptoms, and non-Hispanic White children are more likely than children in other race categories to have had these symptoms. 

While the report on concussions and brain injuries doesn’t have any direct correlation to the pandemic, a second report looked at dental exam visits among children in 2020 compared with 2019. It is known that in 2020, dental practices across the country adjusted their services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and access to dental care was disrupted for many Americans. This new study found that there was a decline in visits for dental exams or cleanings from 2019 to 2020, which likely was driven by the pandemic.  The decline was greater among younger children ages 1 to 4, as well as among lower income children and children living in the northeastern United States. 

Capping off the first week of the month was the latest quarterly provisional birth data for the U.S.  This latest release features mid-year 2021 data, and shows that fertility in the U.S. appears to be continuing its steady decline from the past several years, including a sharp decline in the U.S. fertility rate in the one year ending in mid-year 2020 compared to the same point the year before.

MUSICAL BRIDGE

HOST: This week NCHS also released data from its 2019 linked birth and infant death file.  These data are considered to be more comprehensive than infant mortality data from death certificates alone, due to the linking of the two sources of information.  As a result, much more accurate demographic and geographic data on infant mortality are available from this linked file.  However, the general “bottom line” remains the same – infant mortality in the United States continues to decline, as it has for nearly a century.

Finally, today NCHS released a report looking at trends in mortality from the leading cause of death in America, heart disease.  The new study covers most of the past two decades, with a special focus on changes by state.  The report shows that in the first decade of the millennium, 2000 to 2011, heart disease death rates declined in all 50 states and DC.  However, from 2012 through 2019, heart disease death rates fell in only half the states plus DC – and actually increased in one state (Arkansas). 

Later this month, on Dec. 22, NCHS will release its final death data for 2020, which will include the final, official number of COVID-19 deaths for the country in 2020.  Rounding out the last week of the year are several new reports, including one on emergency department visits by adults who have mental health disorders, using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.  Two pregnancy-related reports are slated for release that week as well:  one on pre-pregnancy body mass index and infant outcomes and another on maternal and infant health outcomes among mothers with confirmed or presumed COVID-19 during pregnancy.  And last, the annual final report on drug overdose deaths for 2020 will be released, which comes on the heels of the latest monthly release of provisional overdose death numbers, running through May of 2021.


QuickStats: Rate of Cesarean Delivery, by Maternal Prepregnancy Body Mass Index Category — United States, 2020

December 3, 2021

In 2020, 31.8% of live births were to women who had a cesarean delivery.

The rate of cesarean delivery was lowest for women who were underweight before pregnancy (20.7%); the rate rose steadily as BMI increased to obesity class III (52.3%).

One quarter (25.1%) of women of normal weight had a cesarean delivery.

Sources: National Vital Statistics System, natality file. https://wonder.cdc.gov/natality-expanded-current.html; Defining adult overweight and obesity. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html#:~:text=Class%203%3A%20BMI%20of%2040%20or%20higher.%20Class,body%20fatness%20or%20the%20health%20of%20an%20individual

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7048a7.htm


NCHS Releases Latest Quarterly Birth Data Through Q1 2021

September 1, 2021

The data is available at the interactive web dashboard below:

Quarterly Provisional Data for Selected Birth Estimates: Q1 2020 – Q1 2021 Vital Statistics Rapid Release Web Data Visualization

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/natality-dashboard.htm

Q1_2021_Births


Declines in Births by Month: United States, 2020

June 23, 2021

NCHS released a report that presents provisional 2020 and final 2019 and 2018 data on changes in the number of U.S. births by race and Hispanic origin of mother and by month of birth and state.

Findings:

  • From 2019 to 2020, the number of births for the United States declined for each month, with the largest declines occurring in December (8%), August (7%), and October and November (6%).
  • Larger declines in births were seen in the second half of 2020 (down 6%) compared with the first half (down 2%) of 2020.
  • The number of births declined in both the first and second 6 months of 2020 compared with 2019 for nearly all race and Hispanic-origin groups, with larger declines in the second half of 2020 compared with the first half of the year.
  • Births declined in 20 states in the first half of 2020, and in all states in the second half of 2020 (declines in 7 states were not significant).
  • Changes in births by race and Hispanic origin and by state were less pronounced from 2018 to 2019; the number of births declined for 9 months by 1%–3%.

 


Total Fertility Rates, by Maternal Educational Attainment and Race and Hispanic Origin: United States, 2019

May 12, 2021

NVSR70_5_cover1Questions for Brady Hamilton, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Total Fertility Rates, by Maternal Educational Attainment and Race and Hispanic Origin: United States, 2019.”

Q: What is the difference between general fertility rates and total fertility rates?

BH: The general fertility rate is the number of births per 1,000 females aged 15–44 in a given year, whereas, the total fertility rate is the estimated number of births that a group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, based on age-specific birth rates in a given year.


Q: Why did you decide to compare educational attainment with total fertility rates?

BH: Educational attainment is considered an important measure of socioeconomic status and can be useful in interpreting patterns and differences in fertility behavior both overall and among population groups. Maternal education has been shown to be associated with contraceptive use, the timing of childbearing, and the total number of children women have in their lifetimes. I wanted to examine the association between educational attainment and the expected number of births for women using the latest available vital statistics birth data (2019) from NCHS.


Q: How did the total fertility rates differ by educational attainment?

BH: Total fertility rates decreased as level of education increased from women with a 12th grade education or less through an associate’s and bachelor’s degree, and then increased from bachelor’s degree through a doctorate or professional degree, although the increase from master’s to doctorate or professional degree was not statistically significant.


Q: How did the total fertility rates by educational attainment differ by race?

BH: The patterns in and levels of the total fertility rates by educational attainment differed across the three race and Hispanic-origin groups shown in the report.

Total fertility rates generally declined from the lowest educational level through a bachelor’s degree for non-Hispanic white women, and through an associate’s degree for Hispanic women, and then generally rose for both groups for women with advanced degrees. Rates for non-Hispanic black women declined by educational level through a master’s degree.

Total fertility rates for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women with some college credit or less were generally higher than the rates for non-Hispanic white women, but TFRs for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women with a master’s degree or more were generally lower than the rates for non-Hispanic white women


Q: Was there a specific finding in the data that surprised you from this report?

BH: Yes, the span of the range in the total fertility rates was surprising, from the low of 1,284 for women with a bachelor’s degree to the high of 2,791 for women with a 12th grade education or less. To put this difference in perspective, a woman with a 12th grade education or less would be expected to have more than one additional birth compared with a woman with a bachelor’s degree.


PODCAST: Effects of the Pandemic on Births in New York City

May 7, 2021

STATCAST, MAY 2021: DISCUSSION WITH ELIZABETH GREGORY, STATISTICIAN, ABOUT HEALTHY PEOPLE INITIATIVE.

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/podcasts/2021/20210507/20210507.htm

podcast-iconHOST:  Elizabeth Gregory is a health scientist with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.  Elizabeth has authored a new study examining the effects of the pandemic on births in New York City, one of the hardest-hit areas by COVID-19.  The study looked at changes in the percentage of births to women who are residents of New York City but who gave birth outside the city.  The data covered the period between 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

HOST:  So this is a different study than what we usually get from NCHS.  Can you explain why you chose this topic?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:  Sure.  Early on during the height of the pandemic in New York City in 2020 there were a lot of news stories about residents leaving the city and busy hospitals with a brief ban on support persons during labor and delivery at some hospitals.  So we decided to take a look at what are these things resulted in women going out of the city to give birth.

HOST: Now a lot of people are anxiously awaiting new data from 2021 to see if there were any major changes in fertility due to the pandemic, but your report is showing really that the pandemic did impact births in New York, at least from a health care utilization, from a delivery perspective, is that correct?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:  So we found that from 2019 to 2020 the percentage of New York City residents giving birth outside the city increased overall for all months from March through November, peaking in April and May.  And the timing of these increases in these out-of-city births correspond with the height of the early pandemic in New York City.

HOST:  is there any indication that these patterns were also true for other cities that were hard hit that in the early stages of the pandemic?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:   We didn’t look at any other cities – but this would be something that would be really interesting to look at.

HOST:  Is there any indication whether these New York City residents were just going across the state line and into New Jersey or Connecticut to have their babies or were they actually traveling further than that? Do you have any information on that?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:   So this is also another thing that be really interesting to look at but for this report we didn’t specifically look at where the out-of-city births were occurring.

HOST:  NCHS of course is also releasing their annual births report on Wednesday and there will be state data and also data for New York City available soon.  Now what happens data-wise in the situation your study focuses on – so for example if a New York City woman goes to New Jersey to give birth does that count as a New Jersey birth or is it still a New York birth?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:  So birth certificates are filed in the state where the birth occurred but are usually looked at by the mother’s state of residence for NCHS reports.  So in this report, a birth to a mother that lived in New York City occurring outside of the city will be considered a birth to a New York City resident.  And in this report it would just be classified as an out-of-city birth.

HOST:   Did we see a surge in births in these neighboring states like New Jersey or Connecticut for 2020?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:  So we didn’t specifically look at where the out-of-city births were occurring but maybe that’s something that could be looked at in the future.

HOST:  So what are some of the conclusions that you’ve drawn from this research?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:  Well from 2019 to 2020 the percent of New York City residents giving birth outside the city increased overall from March through November, peaking in April and May, with the timing of the increases in these out-of-city births corresponding with the height of the early pandemic in New York City.  And additionally, the overall rise in out-of-city births is largely the result of increases among non-Hispanic white women while increases were less pronounced for births to non-Hispanic black and Hispanic residents.

HOST:   Are you planning any other similar geographic studies based on the 2020 data?

ELIZABETH GREGORY:  We currently have a report in the works that will be looking at whether there were any changes between 2019 and 2020 in the percentage of births by whether the mother was born inside or outside the U.S.  I just wanted to mention that we are also working on another report about home births, just to see whether there was a change in the percentage of home births that were occurring in the U.S. from 2019 to 2020.

HOST:  Elizabeth Gregory’s new study was released on the same day that the full-year 2020 birth statistics for the U.S. were released.  These new data were based on over 99% of birth certificates issued in the U.S. during the year, and were featured in a new report that had a number of noteworthy findings:

The nation’s general fertility rate, which is the number of births per 1,000 women age 15-44, reached another record low in 2020, dropping 4% from 2019.  The total number of births in 2020 also fell 4%, to 3,605,201 – the sixth straight year the number of births declined.

The new report also revealed that births in the U.S. continue to be at below replacement levels, based on another decline in the total fertility rate.  Birth rates declined for females of all age groups except two:  adolescents age 10-14 and women age 45-49.

The birth rate for teenagers age 15–19 declined by 8% in 2020 to 15.3 births per 1,000 women in that age group.  The teen birth rate has declined every year going all the way back to 1991 except for two – 2006 and 2007.  The rates in 2020 declined for both younger teens age 15–17 and older teens age 18–19.

Nearly one-third of all births in 2020 were by cesarean delivery, and over one-fourth of births were low-risk cesarean deliveries.  Also, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. declined in 2020 for the first time since 2014, to just over 10% of all births in 2020.


Fact or Fiction: The pandemic had a significant impact on fertility in the United States during 2020

May 5, 2021

Source: National Vital Statistics System

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/vsrr012-508.pdf


Births: Provisional Data for 2020

May 5, 2021

lady-holding-baby-mask-01The general fertility rate in the U.S. reached another record low in 2020 and the number of births in 2020 fell for the sixth straight year, according to provisional statistics released today by NCHS.

The provisional data are featured in a new report, “Births: Provisional Data for 2020,” which is based on over 99% of birth certificates issued during the year. The report reveals that the number of births in 2020 was 3,605,201, down 4% from 2019. The general fertility rate in 2020 was 55.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15–44, also down 4% from 2019.

Other findings in the report:

  • The total fertility rate (TFR) was 1,637.5 births per 1,000 women in 2020, down 4% from 2019 and another record low for the nation. The TFR in 2020 means the U.S. continues to be at “below replacement levels.”
  • Birth rates were unchanged for adolescents ages 10-14 and women ages 45-49, but declined for all other age groups.
  • The birth rate for teenagers ages 15–19 declined by 8% in 2020 to 15.3 births per 1,000 females. The teen birth rate has declined every year except for two (2006 and 2007) going back to 1991. The rates declined in 2020 for both younger (ages 15–17) and older (ages 18–19) teenagers.
  • The cesarean delivery rate increased to 31.8% in 2020, and the low-risk cesarean delivery rate increased to 25.9%.
  • The preterm birth rate declined for the first time since 2014, to 10.09% in 2020.

NYC-medium_croppedNCHS also released a second report today that examined changes in the proportion of births to New York City residents outside the city for 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

Other findings in the report:

  • From 2019 to 2020, the percentage of births to New York City residents that occurred outside of the City increased for all months from March through November, ranging from +15% for September to +70% for April.
  • Out-of-city births peaked in April (10.2%) and May (10.3%) at more than one and onehalf times the 2019 levels (6.0% and 6.2%, respectively).
  • Among non-Hispanic white women, the percentage of out-of-city births was nearly 2.5 times higher in 2020 than in 2019 in April (15.6% versus 6.6%) and May (15.8% versus 6.5%).
  • The percentage of out-of-city births among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic residents increased in only two months in 2020.

NCHS UPDATES”STATS OF THE STATES” PAGE WITH LATEST FINAL DATA

March 26, 2021

SOS_Nav_Page

The CDC National Center for Health Statistics web page “Stats of the States” has been updated to include the latest state-based final data on selected vital statistics topics, including:

  • General fertility rates
  • Teen birth rates
  • Selected other maternal and infant health measures
  • Marriage & divorce rates
  • Leading causes of death
  • Other high profile causes of death.

The site’s map pages allow users to rank states from highest to lowest or vice versa.  This latest version of “Stats of the States” also includes two new topics:  Life expectancy by state and COVID-19 death rates by state (provisional data on a quarterly basis, through Q3 of 2020).  All death rates are adjusted for age.  Rates are featured in the maps because they best illustrate the impact of a specific measure on a particular state.

The main “Stats of the States” page can be accessed at:  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/stats_of_the_states.htm


Increases in Prepregnancy Obesity: United States, 2016–2019

November 25, 2020

A new NCHS report presents trends in prepregnancy obesity for 2016 through 2019 by maternal race and Hispanic origin, age, and educational attainment. Trends by state for 2016–2019 and 2019 rates also are shown.

Key Findings:

  • Prepregnancy obesity in the United States rose from 26.1% in 2016 to 29.0% in 2019 and increased steadily for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic women.
  • From 2016 through 2019, prepregnancy obesity increased among women of all ages and was lowest for women under age 20 (20.5% in 2019).
  • From 2016 through 2019, women with less than a bachelor’s degree were more likely to have prepregnancy obesity than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, but obesity increased over time among all education levels.
  • Compared with 2016, prepregnancy obesity rose in every state but Vermont in 2019.