Health Care

CDC: Drop in births likely linked to pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to a drop in birth rates at the beginning of 2021, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday.

Compared to the same time period in 2020, the first six months of 2021 saw births decline by 2 percent overall, largely due to a 9 percent drop observed in January. In this period, the number of births declined in 19 states and Washington, D.C., while increasing in four states.

From January to June 2021, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recorded 1.75 million births, compared to 1.78 million births in the same period of 2020.

The NCHS noted that while birth rates also declined about 2 percent in both the first and last six months of the calendar year from 2015 to 2019, the sharp drop observed in January 2021 followed by a moderate drop in February was unusual compared with recent trends.

“This difference between patterns seen for the first 6 months of 2021 and earlier years suggests that the magnitude of the downward trend seen in the second half of 2020 and January of 2021 may have begun to wane and declines in the number of births may be returning to prepandemic levels,” said the agency.

The decline in births in early 2021 was observed across all races and origins. The rate of decrease varied across different demographic groups, with a less than 1 percent drop among non-Hispanic White women and an 8 percent drop in non-Hispanic Asian women.

Brady Hamilton, a statistician for the NCHS, told ABC News that the past two years have been “unparalleled.”

“Certainly the thing that caught our eye — and we already saw a hint when we looked at the data for 2020 compared to 2019 — there was an extremely sharp decline in the number of births in January of 2021 compared to January of 2020,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton noted that the large decline in January births likely indicated that women were not getting pregnant around March and April 2020, when the first COVID-19 lockdowns were ordered in the U.S.

However, he noted that it is unclear if the pandemic was solely responsible for the decline in birth rates, as other factors such as economic uncertainty and fragile job security may have also contributed to the trend.

Tags birth rates CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 COVID-19 pandemic

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