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Reported Pregnancies

Vital Statistics

2002 Reported Pregnancies: Introduction


For more than a decade, the State Center for Health Statistics (SCHS) has published the “North Carolina Reported Pregnancies” report. This is the third year that data regarding North Carolina’s pregnancies will be published exclusively on the SCHS web site.

As with previous publications, the data presented are for all North Carolina pregnancies. Total pregnancies represent the sum of all induced abortions, live births, and fetal deaths 20 or more weeks of gestation reported in the state. Not included are spontaneous fetal deaths (still births) occurring prior to 20 weeks gestation, which are not reportable to the state. Special emphasis is placed on abortions, given that they are not reported in other SCHS publications.

Induced Abortion Data

Beginning in 1978, abortion providers began voluntarily reporting detailed characteristics on nearly all of the procedures performed in their facilities. The data reported to SCHS by abortion facilities contain only demographic and basic medical information on the patient (e.g., race, age of mother, weeks of gestation). No information that would identify a patient is included in the SCHS files. The majority of abortion sites send the SCHS data on all abortions performed at their facilities. In addition, several states, such as South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee, also share their abortion data for North Carolina residents receiving abortions outside the state. However, in the case of abortion sites or states failing to report 100 percent of their abortion data, their detailed data have been randomly extrapolated based on aggregate figures that they supply. These adjustments should not seriously bias the overall results.

During 2002, 44 in-state licensed facilities reported 29,229 abortions to the State Center for Health Statistics. This represents a decrease of 3.9 percent from the number reported in 2001. Among 2002 abortions, only 1.7 percent were performed in hospital settings. The remaining 98.3 percent occurred in non-hospital facilities, primarily free-standing clinics. Among abortions performed in North Carolina in 2002, a total of 4,179 were to residents of other states. Of these, 68.4 percent were residents of South Carolina and 23.7 percent were residents of Virginia. Tennessee and Georgia each accounted for 1.7 percent of the nonresident reported induced abortions occurring in North Carolina; Florida and West Virginia 0.6 percent each. Of the 29,229 abortions reported in North Carolina, 99.9 percent occurred in 10 counties. A total of 9,148 abortions or 31.3 percent of the state total occurred in Mecklenburg County, while 24.6 percent occurred in Wake County, and 11.9 percent occurred in Guilford County.

Induced abortions to residents of North Carolina totaled 25,883, a decrease of 4.7 percent from 2001. The numbers varied widely by county of residence during 2002 with all of the 100 counties represented. The number of abortions by county of residence ranged from 4 to 3,944. The most populous counties accounted for the greatest frequencies. The average age of residents receiving abortions was 25.4 while the average educational level was 12.8 years. In 2002, 3.2 percent of North Carolina resident abortions occurred in other states. Of these, 60.3 percent occurred in Virginia, 21.9 percent in Georgia and 16.6 percent in South Carolina. The remaining 1.2 percent were reported from other states such as Kansas, Washington, and West Virginia.

Fetal Death Data

In North Carolina, a fetal death is defined as: “Death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy; the death is indicated by the fact that after such expulsion or extraction the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles” (Administrative Procedure 7G, .0101 (6)). By general statute, a fetal death certificate must be filed if the death occurs at 20 or more weeks of fetal gestation. Fetal death data presented in this report are derived from demographic information on these fetal death certificates.

The data presented here show trends in white and minority fetal deaths by race and maternal age. Although single-year rates are presented, because of the instability of rates based on small numbers, counties are urged to use 5-year fetal death rates. Also note that race-specific fetal death rates for regions, counties, and cities are available in North Carolina Vital Statistics, Volume I.

The overall fetal death rate increased by 2.8 percent from 2001 to 2002. Higher fetal death rates occurred among mothers age 24 and younger, as well as among minorities. Minorities have higher overall fetal death rates, however, the fetal death rates continued to decline in several age groups from 2001 to 2002 for minority mothers.

Live Birth Data

All North Carolina hospitals and birthing centers are mandated to file birth certificates with the state for all live births occurring at their facilities. State legislation specifies that a live birth is defined as “the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which after expulsion or extraction, breathes or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached ”(Administrative Procedure 7G, .0102 (5)). Birth data presented in this report are derived from demographic and other information collected from the birth certificate.

There was a small decrease in the number of live births from 2001 to 2002 (0.7 percent), and an increase of 11.4 percent from 1992 to 2002. There were 117,307 resident live births in 2002. The percentage of newborns at low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) increased slightly from 7.0 to 7.1 from 2001 to 2002 while very low birthweight remained unchanged at 1.9 percent. Births to mothers with no prenatal care accounted for 0.9 percent of all live births. Live births are the greatest contributor to pregnancies, so it is not surprising that the state’s fertility rate and pregnancy rate have followed the same general course. With the birth rate decreasing in 2002, the fertility rate and the pregnancy rate also decreased from 2001 to 2002.


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