Dramatic Fall in Number of Births in the U.S.

Local experts: Many factors are believed to cause shrinking birthrate, which is at the lowest level in 30 years

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

newbornIf it seems that people are having smaller families, you’re right.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the rate of childbirth dropped for nearly every age group of reproductive-age US women in 2017, reaching the lowest levels in 30 years.

According to the US Census, the US birthrate in 2017 decreased to 60.2 births per 1,000 between the ages of 15 and 44, which represents a 3 percent drop from the birthrate in 2016.

In 2017, the nation experienced 3.853 million births, approximately 92,000 less than the year before. What’s most concerning is that birth declines tend to happen during times of war or economic hardship, not when unemployment is down and the economy is improving such as in recent years.

Since 1971, the nation isn’t producing enough children to replace those who have died, a trend also noted by the census. Numerous factors contribute, both physical and societal.

“I definitely feel it is cost of living and that there is not as much support to watch the children when both parents are in the workforce,” said Bridget Gilewski, registered radiologic technologist and diagnostic medical sonography instructor at Trocaire College.

“Childcare costs are high — as they should be, they are watching our children — but it can definitely alter the family lifestyle when child care costs are figured in,” she added.

Since the women’s rights movement, marrying and having children hasn’t been the expected and main option for women of childbearing years. Pursuing education and career are also options, but they tend to delay childbearing for those who do become mothers.

“For birth control, there are great choices and methods are implemented and many women are waiting to have children until they are financially stable,” Gilewski said.

Easier access to contraceptives and abortion, plus fewer teen pregnancies, also play a role in reducing births.

For those who want to have children, Adam Griffin, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist with Buffalo IVF in Buffalo, said that maintaining overall health is vital to maximizing their chances of fertility, including a healthy weight, healthful diet, regular exercise and eschewing tobacco use and excessive alcohol.

Patient treatment plans all start with a basic fertility analysis and an ovarian reserve test to see the number and quality of eggs.

“Women are born with a finite number of eggs and we see a slow, steady decline through menopause,” Griffin said. “Hormonal studies give predictors. While there’s no test that says they can’t be successful, it tells us how aggressive we can be in treatment.”

Buffalo IVF also analyzes semen to ensure there’s no male factor involved. There’s also anatomic analysis for both partners.

“Typically, in about 60 percent of couples, those basic tests will show why they’re having difficulty in conceiving,” Griffin said. “They may also have unexplained infertility. Based upon their fertility evaluation covers, we use that to look at what treatment they should pursue.”

Ashlyn Pardee, acupuncturist with Acupuncture Buffalo, supports fertility through acupuncture. Most receive acupuncture to complement standard fertility treatments.

“Acupuncture has a great and gentle way of augmenting fertility,” Pardee said. “It’s part of Chinese medicine which is herbs, lifestyle and advice.”

She said that acupuncture can aid in balancing hormones and supporting the health of endocrine system, ovaries, uterus and circulatory system. Clients also tend to sleep better, feel less anxious, and experience greater wellbeing.

Pardee said acupuncture lowers the level of inflammatory markers. She said her patients tell her they can feel it’s helping them.

“Some studies show acupuncture increases the success rate of IVF process,” Pardee said.

She encourages couples interested in IVF to begin acupuncture treatments sooner than later to help support good health and improve their chances.

Are Some Birth Control Methods Doomed to Fail?

Women who get pregnant when using certain contraceptives might have their genes to blame, a new study suggests.

A gene variant that breaks down hormones in birth control could be the culprit, researchers reported.

“When a woman says she got pregnant while on birth control, the assumption was always that it was somehow her fault,” said lead study author, physician Aaron Lazorwitz. “But these findings show that we should listen to our patients and consider if there is something in their genes that caused this.”

According to Lazorwitz, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, “The findings mark the first time a genetic variant has been associated with birth control.”

Contraceptives are not 100 percent effective, but the reasons they fail are not fully understood.

The new study included 350 healthy women, half older than 22. All had a contraceptive implant in place for between 12 and 36 months.

Five percent of the women had a gene called CYP3A7 1C, which is usually active in fetuses and then switched off before birth. But some women with this gene continue to make the CYP3A7 enzyme into adulthood, the study authors noted.

“That enzyme breaks down the hormones in birth control and may put women at a higher risk of pregnancy while using contraceptives, especially lower-dose methods,” Lazorwitz said in a university news release.

The gene variant can be found through genetic screening, he added.

Pharmacogenomics is a relatively new field that focuses on how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. The study shows how this field could dramatically change women’s health, “especially in light of the social, financial and emotional consequences of contraceptive failure,” the researchers noted.

The report was published March 12 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The recently issued report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report also found:

• The rate of births to women ages 15 to 44, known as the general fertility rate, sank to a record low of about 60 per 1,000.

• Women in their early 40s were the only group with higher birth rates in 2017, up 2 percent from the year. The rate has been rising since the early 1980s.

• The cesarean section rate rose by a tiny amount after having decreased four years. Studies have shown C-sections are more common in first-time births involving older moms.

• Rates of preterm and low birth weight babies rose for the third straight year.

• Birth rates for teens continued to nosedive, as they have since the early 1990s. In 2017, they dropped 7 percent from the year before.

• Rates for women giving birth in their 20s continued to fall and hit record lows. They fell 4 percent.

• Birth rates for women in their 30s fell slightly, dipping 2 percent for women ages 30 to 34 and 1 percent for women 35 to 39. Birth rates for women in their 30s had been rising steadily to the highest levels in at least half a century, and women in their early 30s recently became the age group that has the most babies.

The U.S. once was among a handful of developed countries with a fertility rate that ensured each generation had enough children to replace it. The rate in the U.S. now stands less than the standard benchmark for replacement. It’s still above countries such as Spain, Greece, Japan and Italy, but the gap appears to be closing.

A decade ago, the estimated rate was 2.1 kids per U.S. woman. In 2017, it fell below 1.8, hitting its lowest level since 1978.

Information based on reports published in USA Today.