State health data shows Utah birthrate decline

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Data from the Utah Department of Health shows the number of Utah births in 2009 fell for the first time since 1993.

Some 55,063 babies were born across the state in 2009 -- about 500 fewer than in 2008.

University of Utah demographer Pam Perlich attributes the drop to the economy and to Utah's demographics. The state's last big baby boom occurred in the early 1980s. Those children are now in their late 20s and early 30s, beyond Utah's peak childbearing age of 24.

"Maybe some of the women in that generation are thinking of having fewer children," Perlich said.

Experts say women nationwide are delaying childbirth. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 2 percent drop in births from 2007 to 2008, the first full year of the recession, which started in December 2007.

And with more men than women losing their jobs, women have decided they need to work -- not get pregnant, experts say.

In Utah, about 65 percent of Utah's 102,000 unemployed are men. Of the Utah women who are having babies, many are asking how fast they can return to work.

"Instead of saying, 'Can you write a prescription for me (to take) off 12 to 16 weeks (of work) they're actually saying, 'How quick can I go back?"' said Trina Jellison, women's services director for Intermountain Medical Center and three other Intermountain Healthcare hospitals.

Instead of saying, 'Can you write a prescription for me (to take) off 12 to 16 weeks (of work) they're actually saying, 'How quick can I go back?'

–Trina Jellison

Utah's Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide low-cost family planning services, are also seeing a recession-related shift in demand. Clinics had a 10 percent increase in clients -- up to 50,000 -- between 2008 and 2009, said Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

Included in the increase are more women 30 and older seeking family planning services. Galloway said she's never seen such growth in demand from that age group and suspects many have lost their health insurance.

"In this time of recession, women are saying, 'I can't afford another baby. I've got to pay attention to (the fact that) if I have sex I could get pregnant,"' said Galloway, who has worked for Planned Parenthood for 30 years.

Utah may be on track for fewer babies in 2010 as well. Data from Wasatch Front hospitals between Davis and Utah counties shows fewer births recorded in the first quarter of this year when compared to data from same period in 2009.

At Intermountain Medical Center, Jellison said the number of births per month are down an average of 100 to 170. Some of those babies are being born at a new hospital nearby, but Jellison said that shift only accounts for up to half of the drop.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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