Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

DHHS Home | A-Z Site Map | Divisions | About Us | Contacts

NC Department of Health and Human Services
N.C. State Center for Health Statistics Home
N.C. Public Health Home

Reported Pregnancies

Vital Statistics

2003 Reported Pregnancies: Introduction


For more than two decades, the State Center for Health Statistics (SCHS) has published the “North Carolina Reported Pregnancies” report. This is the fourth 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, and 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 2003, 36 in-state licensed facilities reported 31,006 abortions to the State Center for Health Statistics. This represents an increase of 6.1 percent from the number reported in 2002. Among 2003 abortions, only 1.3 percent were performed in hospital settings. The remaining 98.7 percent occurred in 18 non-hospital facilities, primarily free-standing clinics. Among abortions performed in North Carolina in 2003, a total of 5,083 were to residents of other states or countries. Of these, 69.4 percent were residents of South Carolina and 20.2 percent were residents of Virginia . Tennessee accounted for 1.7 percent of the nonresident abortions; Georgia 1.6 percent; Maryland and West Virginia 0.4 percent each. Of the 31,006 abortions reported in North Carolina, 99.9 percent occurred in 10 counties. A total of 10,624 abortions or 34.3 percent of the state total occurred in Mecklenburg County, while 23.9 percent occurred in Wake County, and 12.6 percent occurred in Guilford County.

Induced abortions to residents of North Carolina totaled 26,708, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2002. The numbers varied widely by county of residence during 2003 with all of the 100 counties represented. The number of abortions by county of residence ranged from 5 to 4,200. 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 12.7 years. In 2003, 2.9 percent of North Carolina resident abortions occurred in other states. Of these, 51.2 percent occurred in Virginia, 35.0 percent in Georgia and 13.0 percent in South Carolina . The remaining 0.8 percent were reported from Kansas.

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 1.4 percent from 2002 to 2003. Higher fetal death rates continue to occur among mothers age 35 and older and mothers age 19 and younger, as well as among minorities.

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 increase in the number of live births from 2002 to 2003 (0.8 percent), and an increase of 16.7 percent from 1993 to 2003. There were 118,292 resident live births in 2003. The percentage of newborns at low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams) increased slightly from 7.1 to 7.2 from 2002 to 2003 while very low birth weight decreased slightly from 1.9 to 1.8 percent. Births to mothers with no prenatal care accounted for 0.8 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 increasing in 2003, the fertility rate and the pregnancy rate also increased from 2002 to 2003.


Table of Contents