BOSTON – The percentage of teens having babies fell to its lowest point in at least 27 years and was part of an overall drop in the state’s birthrate, according to the latest annual report released Monday from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The study also showed a slight drop in infant mortality, fewer women smoking during pregnancy and an increased number of mothers who were breastfeeding.
The Massachusetts Birth Report was based on figures from 2010, the most recent year in which statistics were available.
Gov. Deval Patrick called the report “good news for Massachusetts families.” But the report also made clear that wide racial and ethnic disparities persisted in many areas.
Overall, 2,000 fewer babies were born in Massachusetts in 2010, a 3 percent drop from the previous year and down 21 percent from 1990. The trend toward women having babies later in life also continued, as 54 percent of mothers were 30 or older, compared with about 25 percent in 1980.
The teen pregnancy rate was 17.1 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19, a 12 percent drop from the previous year, according to the report. The 2010 rate was the lowest recorded since the Department of Public Health began compiling the birth statistics in its current format in 1986.
Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, said it appeared that more sexually active teens were taking steps to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
“Youth behavior data shows that rates of sexual activity have not changed significantly, so it appears that much of the decline in teen birthrates can be attributed to youth effectively using contraception,” said Quinn.
But minority teens were still far more likely to have babies. The birthrate among Hispanic teens, for example, was nearly five times that of white teens.
The state’s overall infant mortality rate dropped from 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births to 4.4 deaths in 2010. The mortality rate for black infants remained higher – 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Unmarried women made up 34.6 percent of new mothers in Massachusetts, virtually unchanged from the last report. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic mothers and more than half of black mothers were unmarried at the time of birth.
The percentage of women who reported smoking during pregnancy fell from 6.8 percent to 6.3 percent, the lowest figure recorded since the annual study began. Smoking during pregnancy has been associated with low birthrate and other health problems among children.