US birth numbers hit 32-year low

In 2018, the CDC reported 3.79 million babies born in the U.S., a 32-year low, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reported a 2 percent drop in birth rates from 2017, the fourth consecutive year that the number declined. The general fertility rate, which is the number of births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 years, declined to 59.

Ten of the last 11 years have seen a decrease in U.S. births, and experts pointed to several trends that could be the cause, including teenagers and unmarried women having fewer babies and more women gaining college degrees. The increase in long-acting contraceptive use is also lowering the U.S. birth rate.

The birth rate among teenage girls, ages 15 to 19 years fell 7 percent in 2018, and the only group of women to see a rise in birth rates was women ages 35 to 44 years.

The birth slump is a factor in the trend of hospitals closing their labor and delivery units. Lockport, N.Y.-based Eastern Niagara Hospital announced May 2 that it will close its maternity unit and eliminate certain services, resulting in 41 workers being laid off.

Munson Healthcare Manistee (Mich.) Hospital is also closing its maternity unit May 31, which will affect 15 jobs.

Both hospitals noted that a decrease in births was one of the reasons for shutting down maternity services.

A 2018 study from the University of Minnesota Rural Health Center in Minneapolis shows that 760 U.S. hospitals closed their obstetrics services between 1985 and 2002. More than 50 percent of rural counties have no hospital-based obstetrics services.

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