Health Status > Maternal Health

Live Births

According to preliminary data, there were 4.1 million births in the United States in 2004, nearly 1 percent more than the number in 2003. The number of births rose among Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian women, while it remained the same for non-Hispanic Black women and declined slightly among non-Hispanic White women. Because the total population rose as well, the 2004 birth rate of 14.0 births per 1,000 people represents a slight decrease from the rate reported in 2003.

In 2004, according to preliminary data, 29.1 percent of births took place by cesarean section, the highest rate ever reported. Healthy People 2010 includes as a goal for the nation the reduction of the cesarean section rate among low-risk women, defined as those whose babies are born at full term, are not twins or other multiples, and are positioned facing downward in the birth canal. An analysis of birth data from 1990 through 2003 showed, however, that even among low-risk women, cesarean section rates are rising, both for women giving birth for the first time and those who have had cesareans in the past. For example, in 1990, 23.9 percent of all first births and 21.0 percent of first births among low-risk women took place by cesareans. In 2003, these percentages were 27.1 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively. Likewise, the percent of women who have vaginal births after a previous cesarean, a procedure known as VBAC, is declining among low-risk women as well as the population as a whole. In 1990, 19.9 percent of women, and 20.8 percent of low-risk women, with a previous cesarean had a VBAC; in 2003, the VBAC rate was 10.6 percent among all women and 11.3 percent among low-risk women with a previous cesarean.

Overall, 99 percent of births took place in hospitals, a rate that has not changed substantially in many years. Of the remainder, the majority took place at home and a small percentage took place in free-standing birthing centers.

Back to top  

Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.