After falling four years in a row, US births may finally be leveling off. The number of babies born last year—a little shy of 4 million—is only a few hundred less than the number in 2011, according to a government report released today. That suggests that lately, fewer couples may be scared away from having children because of the economy or other factors, some experts say. Among the signs of a possible turning point: The birth rate for women in their early 30s inched up for the first time since 2007.
"We may be on level course or potentially even see a rise" in birth trends in the near future, says a statistician with the CDC. Some are a bit more pessimistic. "The decline has slowed down, but it's still a decline," says a birth-trends expert. (The all-time high was more than 4.3 million in 2007.) One decline that's being welcomed: Birth rates for teen moms have been falling since 1991 and hit yet another historic low: 305,000 births last year—less than half the 645,000 in 1970. The teen birth rate has been cut in half since 1991, says a rep for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy; he called it a "stunning turnaround." (Read more birth rate stories.)