CDC: Teen Birth Rates Down

The CDC just released preliminary numbers suggesting that teen birth rates declined by 4% from 2008 to 2009.

The 2009 preliminary estimate o f registered births for the U nited States was 4,131,019, 3 percent less than 2008 (4,247,694) (Tables 1-3 and Figure 1) [2]. Births declined for all race and Hispanic origin groups, down 4 percent for Hispanic women, 2 percent for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black and American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) women, and 1 percent for Asian or Pacific Islander (API) women. Early birth counts through June 2010 suggest continued decline [3].

A Washington Post story pointed out that less women, overall, were having babies. They attributed the decline to the recession.

“When money is very tight, all of us think harder about taking risks, expanding our families, taking on new responsibilities,” Brown said. “Now I know that teens may not be as savvy about money as those in their 20s and 30s – they probably don’t stress over 401(k)s like the rest of us –but many teens live with financially stressed adults, and they see neighbors and older friends losing jobs and even losing houses. So they, too, feel the squeeze and may be reacting to it by being more prudent…. Maybe part of tightening our belts includes keeping our zippers closed, too!”

That fits with earlier research released in the spring by the Pew Research Center, which found that states hit hardest by the recession experienced the biggest drops in births.

What do you all think?


Europe Not Necessarily Growing Older

Despite conventional wisdom that Europeans are not having children therefore its social welfare system will collapse under the weight of the elderly, a recent report by Goldman Sachs suggests otherwise. From Newsweek:

According to the report, fertility rates in a number of advanced economies actually bottomed out in 2001, and have been rising since. The jump is most pronounced in places like the U.K., France, and Spain, and it’s not, as some have suspected, just because of increased immigration. The explanation: women in rich countries have been having children later in life, something that traditional economic models (amazingly) don’t account for.

I couldn’t find the Newsweek story online. But according to the Goldman Sachs study, countries like Italy and Japan are still experiencing declining birthrates, which will have an impact on their workforce. The study also suggested making 60 the “new 55” to ease the burden on the retirement system — including the United States.


Misconceptions About Conception

Parents recently debunked three myths surrounding conception. They were:

Myth: Having too much sex could hurt your chances of conceiving.
Truth: Don’t let this rumor ruin your fun. Unless your husband has been diagnosed with a low sperm count, you two can get busy whenever (and wherever) the mood strikes.

Myth: The best time to try for a baby is the day you ovulate.
Truth: You’re actually more fertile during the five days preceding it. Use an ovulation kit to predict the day, then aim to have sex at least every other day for the five days up to it.

Myth: Using lube makes it harder to get pregnant.
Truth: Some studies suggest that lubricant can slow your guy’s swimmers, but most couples shouldn’t stress over it. “If you’re having fertility issues, your doctor may recommend using Pre-Seed, a brand that doesn’t affect sperm,” says Dr. Hutcherson.

What other myths and truths have you heard about conception? Here is another list of myths like standing on your head will make you pregnant or simply “relaxing” will help you conceive.


Report: Women Having Children Younger

The Wall Street Journal recently cited federal statistics suggesting women are having children at a younger age.

The average age at which women give birth for the first time has posted the first decline since the government began tracking the data in 1968, the National Center for Health Statistics says. As reported in today’s “Work & Family“ column, mothers’ mean age at their first birth was 25.0 years in 2006, the latest data available, down from 25.2 in 2005. The turnaround was led by women in the 20-to-24 age bracket, who posted a 5% increase in the rate of first births.

The report lends statistical evidence to anecdotal reports that more young, educated women are heeding their biological clocks and starting their families in their 20s. There are other factors at work too, including rising numbers of Hispanics, who tend to start families earlier. Also, older teens ages 15 to 19 posted a 4% increase in first-birth rates in 2006, helping drive the trend.

But some experts also see an attitude change at work. Many of today’s young mothers feel entitled to both a career and a family, and see no reason to delay child-rearing for years just to prove their career commitment. Pro basketball star Candace Parker, who last month disclosed her pregnancy at the age of 22, is a recent example. After running her basketball career to please others, says the WNBA Rookie of the Year and MVP, she and her husband, the Sacramento Kings’ Shelden Williams, decided to time their babies to please themselves. Ms. Parker says she wants to enjoy her children while she, and her career, are still young.

The fact that young women feel like they can have a career and baby at the same time is a welcome trend, IMHO. However, the 4 percent increase in teen pregnancies is disturbing.

What do you think of this trend story, MotherTalkers?


Weekend Open Thread

It’s the weekend! Time for another round-up of wild, wacky and thought-provoking health and fitness news…

The number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese culture, making yesterday an auspicious day:

Many Asian cultures consider the number eight the luckiest. The Chinese word for eight, ba, sounds similar to the word for wealth, making it no surprise that the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games, in Beijing, began at 8:08:08 p.m. on 8-8-08.

Babies born on 8/8/08 will certainly have a birthday that is easy to remember!

From the “Ah, crap!” files: A six-month medical study in Scotland has found that Clomid and artificial insemination, the two most common fertility treatments for women with unexplained infertility, are not effective and don’t result in higher pregnancy rates. Not exactly the news you want to hear when you have unexplained infertility and just finished 6 unsuccessful cycles of Clomid. Maybe I was only meant to be a mommy of one…

From the “WTF?!” files:
A salon in Virginia is offering pedicures that guarantee smooth feet by DUNKING YOUR TOOTSIES IN A TUB OF HOT WATER AND LETTING ONE HUNDRED TINY LITTLE CARP NIBBLE OFF THE DRY SKIN. Apparently, it’s quite the rage. I like smooth feet as much as the next gal but….ew!

From the “Seriously, WTF???” files: Can somebody please tell me if this Wall Street Journal article is serious or satire? This front-page story spent considerable column inches pontificating on whether Barack Obama’s physical fitness could cost him the election. Apparently, fat, junk-food loving, lazy Americans can’t relate to a thin, athletic and health-conscious commander-in-chief, and therefore won’t vote for him.

God help us all.

What’s everyone up to this weekend? I am going for a gentle swim this morning. I signed up for personal training sessions at my gym and let’s just say I can barely get up and down the stairs right now. I thought I was in great shape because I can run for miles, but weight training is a whole other animal!

Have a great weekend!


When Did You Have Your First Child?

Parents magazine ran a fun article comparing the pros and cons of having children early, late in life or somewhere in between. It peppered the article with some interesting statistics.

The first mom, Carla Lehrer, had her first baby at 21. She was married in her sophomore year of college, pregnant by second semester and took a year off when the baby was born. By graduation, she was pregnant with her second child.

BEING A YOUNG MOM means that it’s hard not be selfish about my time. I used to sleep in, read, or watch TV whenever I wanted and go out with friends any night I pleased. All these freedoms go away when you’re a parent.

BOUNCING BACK AFTER pregnancies is easier when you’re younger. I’ve gotten down to my starting weight after each one. Two weeks after I had Aliza I was in a bridesmaid dress.

I’M HAPPY THAT my kids have young grandparents–they’re all in their 50s–and seven great-grandparents. I’m always calling my mom and mother-in-law for advice, and I also go to Facebook, where I started my own young moms group called Mommy and Me.

Women ages 20 to 24 give birth to about a quarter of all babies each year.

Wow. I felt like I was still finding myself at this age. I couldn’t imagine being pregnant as an undergrad! Then again, I do wish I had the energy from my college days.

The second mom in the article, Samantha DePriest, and I had babies around the same age — she at 25, me at 26. We share similar experiences, although I thankfully had both my mother and mother-in-law. (Here is where being the oldest in a young family has a significant upside!)

MY CAREER HAD BEEN important to me–I was just starting out and was very ambitious. But during my maternity leave, I realized that motherhood was what life was about for me right now: I wanted to be the most dedicated and hands-on mommy I could be. I called my boss and said I couldn’t come back.

AT FIRST IT WAS TOUGH because I didn’t have a mother or a mother-in-law to help me and offer advice, and my friends hadn’t had kids yet. Some of my closest mom friends are women in their 30s and 40s whom I met in the neighborhood or at playgroups. They were eager to take me under their wing and share their wisdom.

THERE ARE TIMES when Chris and I hear about all the wild things our single friends are doing and we’re envious. But then something magical happens at home with our boys and we’re reminded that we have such a full life to be thankful for.

25 is the average age at which U.S. women have their first child.

Carol Siu, who had her first child at 30, said she waited until she met Mr. Right to have children. Other upsides to waiting: She advanced in her career and had financial stability. She is the proud beneficiary of advice and hand-me-downs as well as retired parents-in-law who care for her daughter while she works.

ONE BIG PLUS about waiting until your 30s is financial stability–we own our own apartment now, and we’ve got some money we saved for Emily’s education. It also meant that Emily doesn’t have to compete with my career. I put so much time and energy into my job in my 20s that I felt like I was able to step back a little once I had her. I found a new position within the company that allows me to work at home sometimes, so I can spend more time with her…

Women between 25 and 34 have an 86 percent chance of conceiving within a year.

Erica S. Turnipseed-Webb had her first baby at 36 after the devastating loss of a baby four days old and a miscarriage. About a third of women between the ages of 35 and 39 have infertility problems, according to Parents.

MOST OF MY FRIENDS didn’t get married and find permanent relationships until their 30s. I think that for a lot of black, college-educated women it gets complicated. There’s a certain point when you decide either not to have kids because you don’t have a partner or to go ahead and have kids on your own.

I’M GLAD THAT I had time to be spontaneous, go out with friends, and travel before having kids–it’s a lot harder to get out of the house and do things when you have a baby. And I feel like I’m a better person for having had the experiences I did before having Lena. I just hope that she’ll feel the same way and that she’ll keep me young.

WE WOULD LIKE to have another child, but my husband and I say that we’ll see what God has in store for us. We would consider adoption, which has always been something we’ve wanted to do.

Only .2 percent of first-time moms are between the ages of 40 and 44, according to Parents. Andrea Steele Cuozzo, who had her first two children — twins — at 44, is one of them. She conceived after one round of in vitro fertilization.

MY FRIENDS’ CHILDREN are now in college, so I’m completely out of sync! They went through all the sleepless nights and playdates and pediatrician appointments years ago–and I’m just starting. My husband is much younger (he’s 36) and I honestly don’t feel my age at all, but I realize that as I get older it’s going to become more challenging.

I THOUGHT BEING OLDER would mean that I’d be more prepared for motherhood. I was centered, had traveled extensively, had eaten in all the best restaurants, and had bought all the clothes I wanted. But honestly, the experience of the two of them brings me to my knees. I wouldn’t have been more prepared at 144.

Amen, sister! Cuozzo, BTW, looks amazing.

We were not financially secure when I became pregnant at 25 and I even toured and put my name on waiting lists at daycare centers. But thankfully, all worked out and I had the choice to leave my job.

At the time, I decided to have children because I had a dream that I would have a baby girl. I turned to my husband that morning and said, “It’s time.” Also, my grandfather had just been diagnosed with cancer, and it was important to me that my baby meet the man who had a hand in raising me. Ari got to meet all my grandparents and his great grandmother in El Salvador. I could not have picked a more perfect time to have a child.

What about you? When did you choose to have children? Why?


Eggs, Over Easy

I’ve never liked doing things the easy way. When my partner and I decided to have a child, we used my egg, fertilized with anonymous donor sperm, and carried in her uterus. (No, this isn’t standard lesbian protocol, if there even is such a thing, but it’s not unheard of. If you’re interested, you can read the details over at Mombian.)

The procedure we used was a two-person variation of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Like all forms of IVF, multiple embryos were implanted in order to boost the odds that any one would make it. This meant there was a high risk of multiple births. Not that this would have been the end of the world; many parents have survived with twins or more (and a few might even relish getting the whole labor thing over with all at once), but it wasn’t our preferred way to go. We spent a few anxious weeks hoping that we’d have only one, as indeed we did.

Our other anxiety was that we’d strike out after three IVF attempts, at which point our insurance wouldn’t cover the procedure, at about $20,000 per try. (Sperm, for some reason, was never covered. At only $300 a shot, it seemed like a bargain. Yeah, yeah, I know, there are cheaper ways . . . didn’t want to go there.) We got lucky, and did it in two cycles.

Now, scientists at the University of Adelaide say they have developed a new method of IVF that could double pregnancy rates and halve the incidence of  serious complications. It might also allow doctors to implant only a single embryo.

Good news all around. It may be a while before this technology is available to humans, however; so far, it has only been tested on mice. It seems to involve putting the embryos in a new type of culture to help them “better survive their five days out of the womb, and help the foetus and placenta develop more normally.”

The question is, for both same-sex couples and opposite-sex ones with fertility problems, at what point in the testing of any new reproductive technology would you take a chance with it? Would your desire to create a healthy child spur you to volunteer just after the mouse stage, if you could, or are you the type who would wait until many other humans had used the method with success? What if your insurance would only cover three tries? Would you use one of them trying a little-tested new technology?


So You Want to Get Pregnant . . .

(I originally wrote this for Bay Windows (December 13, 2007), an LGBT newspaper, and focused on the commonalities between single straight moms and lesbian moms, coupled or not. Most mainstream coverage of the book, however (e.g., Newsweek), has focused on the issue of whether a woman can or should raise kids without a father if she doesn’t have an appropriate man in her life. Take the discussion here any way you choose….)

Louise Sloan’s new book, Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom (Avery: 2007), is something of a novelty. It is perhaps the only parenting book by an out lesbian mom that is directed at a mixed audience, lesbian and not. While some books about single motherhood are inclusive of lesbian moms to varying degrees, and some books about lesbian parenting state they are also appropriate for single straight moms, Sloan goes beyond them and weaves the experiences of herself and other lesbians with those of straight women in an even-handed way that makes neither group feel like outsiders.

The book features her own perspective as a single mom by choice, as well as the voices of 43 other women whom she interviewed at length, representing a wide variety of backgrounds and choices on the path to parenthood. Sloan says she wanted her book to be “a lively support group in text form, offering a diversity of perspectives,” and in this she succeeds. Chatty, informal and at times laugh-out-loud funny, there is nevertheless much practical information in the women’s stories and Sloan’s asides.

Some people, of course, feel single moms by choice are selfish and view men as unnecessary, the same argument many throw at lesbian moms. Sloan, however, argues “What the straight women in this book rejected was not men or marriage – it was the idea of getting into a bad marriage, or the wrong marriage, just to have kids. . . . In fact, many have made the decision to bear a child out of wedlock because they respect marriage too much to enter into it lightly for reasons of social and procreational expedience.” For lesbians, the marriage situation is somewhat different, but the idea is the same: Don’t force yourself into the wrong relationship just to have a parenting partner. The de-linking of marriage and procreation, however, is one of the many reasons the book has already garnered a number of far-right detractors, who also seem to believe the lack of a dad means a troubled life for the child — an assertion disproven by credible research. Straight single moms by choice and lesbians, coupled or not, may find common cause here, an alliance that in my opinion has yet to be fully explored.

Sloan herself spends little time on the politics of this debate, however, except to cover it briefly in her introduction. Most of the book is devoted to personal stories, with a sprinkling of general information about insemination and pregnancy. The women discuss the soul-searching that led them to go it alone, their individual methods for choosing a donor, inseminating and financing the endeavor, and dating and sex as single moms-to-be. Post-birth topics include talking with children about their biological fathers, “coming out” about single motherhood, and the impact of being a single mom on self, family, and career.

The women share a range of experiences: known and unknown donors, quick conceptions, infertility, easy pregnancies, difficult ones, healthy babies and those with medical problems. They burst stereotypes like “all single moms by choice must be liberals” and “all single moms of color must be on welfare.” Sloan presents the women’s choices, such as using a known vs. unknown donor, with commendable neutrality, even when also sharing her own story. If there is one message that comes through consistently, though, it is the importance of knowing when to ask for help from friends or family, and realizing that “single” shouldn’t mean “isolated.” Wise words indeed.

In the chapter “Coming Out About Single Motherhood,” Sloan most clearly shows the value of communicating across the lines of sexual orientation. Talking about one’s single-mom status is a lot like coming out as a lesbian, she says. Just as mentioning one’s (straight) husband makes people think of a social relationship, but mentioning a same-sex partner makes them think of sex, telling people your child’s “father” was a donor makes them think of sperm, a similarly awkward subject. Confront the awkwardness, she advises: “I feel it’s important to live one’s life openly and honestly. More importantly, what message would it send to my son if I tried to hide his origins? It would suggest to him, and to everyone, that it’s something to be ashamed of. So even though it might be a little uncomfortable for me at first, I think coming out is important.” We lesbians have heard the argument before, unrelated to kids; I, for one, am glad if others, especially potential allies, can benefit from it as well.

The book ends with a “Donor Insemination and Fertility Glossary” and an extensive bibliography about single motherhood and parenting. There is little to criticize about the work, except to note its self-imposed boundaries. It is not a how-to like Mikki Morrisette’s Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide (Be-Mondo: 2005), nor a rigorous sociological study like Rosanna Hertz’s Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice (Oxford: 2006), both recommended to help round out an exploration of the topic. Sloan does not deal with adoption, noting its unique issues and choosing to focus on those who want to bear children. For anyone considering knocking themselves up, however, or even lesbian couples wanting to inseminate, Knock Yourself Up is a warm, funny, and useful read, and a heartening example of bridge-building across the queer/straight divide.


Genetic screening has negative effect on IVF succes rate

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine today indicates that fertilised eggs that are tested for genetic disorders have a significantly (about 33%) smaller chance of leading to a successful pregnancy. The research was carried out at a Dutch University, which is why I found a report of their press release here (sorry, it’s in Dutch).

The news report notes that preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) is not currently used in The Netherlands (apart from in this trial), but that it is fairly common in the US (2 out of 3 clinics offering IVF offer PGS as well), Belgium and the UK. PGS is also very expensive and generates substantial revenue for the clinics. People considering IVF should be aware of this.

The original paper is published in the NEJM here and accompanied by an editorial from which I quote below the fold. Note that both links are probably to subscribed content. If anyone is interested, please let me know in the comments, and I will find a way to send you the paper (I have access at work).

The editorial by John A. Collins, M.D. from McMaster and Dalhousie Universities in Canada notes that

The effectiveness of preimplantation genetic diagnosis has been accepted without randomized trials, because its success in reducing transmission of genetic diseases is self-evident.

Despite these drawbacks and the $3,000 to $5,000 cost of preimplantation genetic diagnosis in addition to the cost of the cycle of IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, preimplantation genetic diagnosis is often considered a worthwhile alternative to prenatal testing and possible therapeutic abortion.

the results [of the study pblished today] suggest that for every nine women who are 35 to 41 years of age who plan three cycles of IVF or IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, there will be one more live birth if preimplantation genetic diagnosis for aneuploidy screening is not performed.

Given the findings of Mastenbroek et al., preimplantation genetic diagnosis for aneuploidy screening should not be performed solely because of advanced maternal age.

Furthermore, the present results underscore other pressing research needs, such as avoiding the increased likelihood of aneuploidy associated with standard ovarian-stimulation routines and finding means of identifying which embryos are most likely to survive and become healthy singleton live births.


In Vitro Maturation of Eggs Offers New Fertility Hope

A Canadian baby is the first to be born using the process of “in vitro maturation (IVM),” in which an egg was matured in a lab, frozen, thawed, and then fertilized. Traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF) requires a series of hormone treatments that cause the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. IVM, which takes immature eggs from unstimulated ovaries, offers new hope to those with medical conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and certain cancers, that make ovarian stimulation dangerous, or that limit the time they have to undergo egg extraction.

Although IVM is still in its infancy, and has not yet been proven in cancer patients, another three women are now pregnant via the method, making it seem like a real possibility for the future. IVM could also ease assisted reproduction even for healthy women, allowing them to do away with hormone treatments before egg extraction. (Having been through such treatments, I’ll say that this would be a good move.)

Researchers also announced they were able to extract, mature, and freeze eggs from girls as young as five, though none have yet been fertilized. Extracting eggs from girls raises a host of legal questions about who has control over these eggs while a girl is still a minor or in the event of her death or permanent mental impairment, who pays to keep the eggs on ice, and what happens if the money runs out.

In reporting this, New Scientist comments “The technique might allow girls with cancer to become mothers when they grow up.” Biological mothers, yes. Let’s remember, however, that adoption and using an egg donor also offer ways for women to “become mothers.” I’m not saying those who want to have biological children should simply try another method; I’m saying let’s not keep implying biology is the only way to motherhood. Still, for those who do choose to pursue the biological method, these new developments promise greater options.

(Crossposted at Mombian.)