Local experts discuss new report by CDC showing US birth rate at 32-year low

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. A national report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the birth rate in the U.S. is at a 32-year low.

Newborn baby feet, Photo Date: January 15, 2013 / Photo: Pixabay / (MGN)

The report revealed the birth rate has decreased in every demographic, except for among women in their 30s and early 40s.

It's been a trending topic among those who study fertility and economic demography as they try to find out why this is happening and how it could affect us.

There were about 3.79 million births in the U.S. in 2018, down 2 percent from 2017. The fertility rate was 59 births per 1,000 women, which is another record low.

“If people aren't having children, often that's an indicator of how they're feeling about their future prospects, their job prospects or what it takes to have a child,” said Kasey Buckles, an associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame. “So, the fact that there are a lot of people who are deciding not to have a kid right now may be telling us something about their economic situation.”

The only demographic that saw an increase in the birth rate was women in their 30s and early 40s, indicating more women are simply waiting longer to have children.

“It is not unusual at all for me to see women over 35 having babies,” said Dr. Ilana Kirsch, an OBGYN and member of the St. Joseph County Board of Health. “That's so common that it's an everyday occurrence.”

“I would say infertility is my biggest concern, because there are a lot of women who wait because they just want to get more established in their career,” Kirsch added. “Or maybe they haven't found the right partner yet or whatever social reason that they're waiting, and all of a sudden, they try to get pregnant and they can't because they are no longer fertile.”

Kirsch recommended that when a woman is ready to get pregnant at whatever age, she should be on a multivitamin that has at least 0.4 milligrams of folic acid to decrease the risk of having a baby with spina bifida by 80 percent. And, of course, she should talk to her doctor.

On a positive note, the study also revealed that teen pregnancies fell 7 percent from 2017 to 2018 and have been reduced by 50 percent over the last 10 years.

Possible explanations for that decrease could be use of contraception among teens or that teens now experience social interactions online more often than in person.