The nation’s birth rate declined in 2015, new data says

Fewer babies were born in the United States, the latest government data show, and new mothers relied less on cesarean deliveries.

Women gave birth to nearly 4 million babies in the United States in 2015, down 1 percent from a year earlier, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means the nation’s fertility rate saw a small but noteworthy drop with 62.5 births for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.

And among teens, that rate fell 8 percent to 22.3 births per 1,000 female teens in 2015 alone.

Researchers based their data on information each new parent jots down for a newborn child’s birth certificate, providing a “a lot more information reported on the birth certificate than many people are aware of,” said Joyce Martin, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics and the report’s lead author who has studied this data for a decade.

“It’s really essential for public health,” Martin said, adding that “It’s an important basic record of health trends for babies and moms in the United States.”

The certificates also tell researchers how babies are delivered nationwide. How often do doctors and nurses induce labor or allow it to occur spontaneously, use forceps and vacuums or opt for cesarean, or c-section, delivery?

Overall, Martin and her team found c-sections declined in 2015 to 32 percent of all U.S. births. That’s down from a 32.9-percent peak six years earlier, when researchers found c-sections were the nation’s most common surgery.

And fewer doctors use vacuums and forceps to assist with deliveries — 3 percent of all births. That’s down from two decades earlier when these devices combined were used in 9 percent of U.S. births.

More babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy — about 10 percent, the report said. And a rising number of babies — slightly more than 8 percent — were born with a low birth weight of 5 pounds, 8 ounces or less, researchers found.