American women are having fewer babies, according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics.
It reveals in 2018 there were just over 3.7 million births, a 32-year low.
“I think what we’re seeing is that there is a trend towards delayed childbearing,” says Cleveland Clinic maternal-fetal physician Dr. Jeff Chapa.
Birth rates declined across nearly all age groups, with the biggest drop among teens. But when it comes to women in their late 30s and early 40s, the rates are up.
While the report doesn’t offer any explanations, experts like Dr. Chappa cite a number of possible reasons.
“We have more women who have careers and are in the workplace, so education and getting established in their jobs has become a priority and they’ve put off having children until later,” he says.
For the fourth year in a row, the number of pre-term births is up, possibly tied to higher risk pregnancies among older mothers.
“The rates of pregnancy complications such as hypertension, gestational diabetes, and other complications that might predispose to premature delivery have increased and that may be why we’re seeing the higher rates,” Dr. Chapa explains.
Some suspect the downward trend seen in the report may slow down or reverse itself as women who’ve delayed starting families begin to have the babies they’ve been planning for.