US, Arizona see historic lows in birth rates

PHOENIX (AP) – A new report shows that birth rates in Arizona and across the U.S. are at historic lows.

The National Center for Health Statistics released provisional data from 2016 on Friday that puts the national fertility rate for women between 15- and 44-years-old at 62 births per 1,000 women.

The Arizona Department of Health Services preliminary data estimates that state's fertility rate is 63.9 – the lowest it has been since at least 1980, around the time the state began recording the data, the Arizona Republic reported.

There has also been a national decline in births by women in their teens and 20s. The teen birth rate dropped by 9 percent over the past year and is 67 percent lower since 1997. In Arizona, the teen birth rate decreased by 10 percent in the past year and is 69 percent lower since 1991.

That's good news for Dr. Julie Kwatra, a Scottsdale obstetrician and Arizona legislative chairwoman of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"The drop in teen rates is no surprise at all," she said. "That is 100 percent correlated with the Affordable Care Act and young women and teens having access to long-acting contraception."

In contrast, there was a tick up in birth rates among older women. National birth rates for women in their 30s and 40s have risen, and a similar trend exists in Arizona. But Kwatra said it's not enough to offset the lower rates in younger women.

Kwatra sees the trends as a sign that women are waiting until they are older, have finished school and have a career established to plan their families. She doesn't think the lower numbers are something to worry about yet.

"Demographically, we're still in a good place compared to other Western countries," she said. "We're not in a population crisis. But we'll have to see what the trend is. It all depends whether millennials will have enough babies."