Fertility Rates

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fertility rates

The fertility rate is a measure of the number of live births to women of childbearing age. According to federal data released in 1999 for 1997, the latest information as of this writing, fertility dropped from previous years to 65.0 live births per 1,000 for women ages 15-44 years.

The birth rate for teenagers ages 15-17 years was 32.1 per 1,000, down from previous years. The rate for women ages 30-34 years was up, to 85.4 per 1,000, compared to 73.7 per 1,000 in 1988. The rates among women ages 40-44 were also up, to 7.1 per 1,000 from 4.8 in 1988. Births to unmarried women ages 15-44 were 44.0 per 1,000.

Contrary to popular belief, the rate of infertility has not increased significantly since 1982: What has increased since that time is the number of couples delaying childbearing until their late twenties or even late thirties. This large number has resulted from individuals born during the "Baby Boom" (1946-1964). Many of the women in this group delayed childbearing into older ages, where they are more likely to suffer fertility problems.

Fertility declines with age, and women over age 30 are twice as likely to have fertility problems as younger women. Because fertility declines from the early twenties to the late thirties, it is difficult or even impossible for a significant percentage of women aged 39 (or older) to successfully become pregnant and bear a child.

As a result of this delayed childbearing and subsequent fertility declines, the number of couples seeking to adopt an infant has increased out of proportion to the number of babies who need adoptive families. In addition, single parenthood has over the same period of time become socially preferable to the many young woman who would have considered placing their baby for adoption in earlier years.

Although women in their mid to late thirties who are physically able to bear children may ultimately become pregnant, the timeframe to achieve a conception may be longer than the time-frame for a woman aged 25. Many women in their mid to late thirties believe they can't afford to wait for years to become pregnant, and as a result, they visit infertility specialists, hoping to find a rapid answer to their problem.

About 20% of infertility cases are diagnosed as "unexplained infertility" and never respond to drug treatment, surgery, in vitro fertilization or any other methods tried by infertility specialists. However, physicians are constantly researching new techniques, and dramatic breakthroughs are expected over the next decade.

Members of RESOLVE INC., a mutual aid support group, believe fertility treatments may be far less expensive than generally believed. According to resolve leaders, less than 33% of infertile couples seek treatment for fertility problems. Of these, at most 15% seek expensive treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

William D. Mosher, Ph.D., and William F. Pratt, Ph.D., Fecundity and Infertility in the United States, 1965-88, National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Vital Statistics, no. 192, December?4, 1990.

William D. Mosher and Christine Bachrach "Understanding U.S. Fertility Continuity and Change in the National Survey of Family Growth," Family Planning Perspectives 28, no. 1 (1996): 4-13.

Stephanie Ventura et al., "Births: Final Data for 1997," Reproductive Statistics, Centers for Disease Control 47, no. 18 (April?29, 1999).

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