Teen birthrate falls to historic low in Mass.By BOB SALSBERG , Associated Press
Apr. 1, 2013 4:39 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — The percentage of teens in Massachusetts having babies fell to its lowest point in at least 25 years and was part of an overall drop in the birthrate, according to the latest annual report from the state public health agency.
The study released Monday also showed a slight drop in infant mortality, fewer women smoking during pregnancy and an increased number of mothers who were breastfeeding.
The Massachusetts Birth Report was based on figures from 2010, the most recent year in which statistics were available.
Gov. Deval Patrick called the report "good news for Massachusetts families." But while the statistics pointed to a number of encouraging trends, they also made clear that wide racial and ethnic disparities persisted in many areas, including teen births, infant mortality and low birth weight.
Overall, 2,000 fewer babies were born in Massachusetts in 2010, down 3 percent from the previous year and 21 percent from 1990. The trend toward women having babies later in life also continued, as 54 percent of mothers were 30 or older, compared with about 25 percent in 1980.
The teen pregnancy rate was 17.1 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19, a 12 percent drop from the previous year, according to the report. The 2010 rate was the lowest recorded since the Department of Public Health began compiling the birth statistics in its current format in 1986.
The teen birthrate peaked at 35.9 per 1,000 in 1989. The current rate is less than half that of the reported U.S. rate in 2010.
Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, said it appeared that more sexually active teens were taking steps to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
"Youth behavior data shows that rates of sexual activity have not changed significantly, so it appears that much of the decline in teen birthrates can be attributed to youth effectively using contraception," said Quinn.
But minority teens were still far more likely to have babies. The birthrate among Hispanic teens, for example, was nearly five times that of white teens.
The state's overall infant mortality rate dropped from 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births to 4.4 deaths in 2010. The mortality rate for black infants remained higher — 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.
The percentages of babies who were born preterm or with low birth weight showed little overall change, but black mothers continued to have a significantly greater chance of having preterm or low birth weight infants than white mothers.
Unmarried women made up 34.6 percent of new mothers in Massachusetts, virtually unchanged from the last report. Here again there were wide ethnic and racial variations, with nearly two-thirds of Hispanic mothers and more than half of black mothers unmarried at the time of birth.
The state has promoted breastfeeding through a variety of programs and officials Monday expressed pride that a record 83 percent of new mothers were breastfeeding, a 1 percent increase from the previous year.
"Breastfeeding provides vitally important health benefits for infants, so we're delighted with these findings," Dr. Lauren Smith, interim commissioner of the public health agency, said in a statement.
The percentage of women who reported smoking during pregnancy fell from 6.8 percent to 6.3 percent, the lowest figure recorded since the annual study began. Smoking during pregnancy has been associated with low birthrate and other health problems among children.
The report found the percentage of mothers who received an adequate level of prenatal care climbed slightly to 84.9 percent. About 36 percent of women received prenatal care through the state's Medicaid program or other public or free care programs in 2010, virtually unchanged from 2009.