WASHINGTON, December 18, 2003 ( – New statistics from the CDC on U.S. births paint a grim picture with the news that in 2002, the birth rate fell to the lowest rate ever recorded for the United States, 13.9 per 1,000 total population. The general fertility rate declined 1 percent for 2001-2002 to 64.8 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years.

Two birth complications which are more common among women who have had previous abortions – preterm births and low birthweight – have risen according to the CDC figures.

The rate of preterm births (less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) increased in 2002 to 12.1 percent of all births. Preterm delivery is a leading cause of neonatal mortality and birth-related morbidity. Influenced in part by the rising rate of multiple births (multiples are more likely to be born early), the proportion of preterm infants has risen 14 percent since 1990.

The low birthweight (LBW) rate (less than 2,500 grams) increased to 7.8 percent, the highest level reported in more than three decades. Also influenced by the growth in multiple births, LBW has risen 15 percent since the mid-1980s; the rate of LBW among singleton infants has increased by a more modest 5 percent. The rate of very low birthweight (VLBW) (less than 1,500 grams) was 1.46 percent for 2002, compared with 1.44 percent for 2001.

See the full CDC report: