Birth rate patterns in Clark and Champaign counties closely mirror the state and national trend of a falling number of new babies each year.
Local health experts said a decrease in the counties’ population numbers and the economic recession are the two main factors why the birth rate has been declining.
Since 2007 when the birth rate per 1,000 population in Clark County was at 13.6, the number has slowly declined each year and dropped to 11.4 in 2012, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.
In Champaign County, the birth rate was 13.4 in 2007, then plunged from 2008-10. It’s crept back up from 10.2 to 10.5 to 10.9 from 2010-12.
On average, it costs about $3,500 for a natural delivery and hospital stay, said Gabe Jones, an epidemiologist with the Clark County Combined Health District.
“People generally have births whenever they’re ready and whenever they’re able to,” Jones said. “In this current economic climate, it’s a lot harder, especially in Clark County where we have some areas that are poverty stricken. People don’t want births if they can’t afford it.”
The birth rate among all women in the United States began to decline in 2007, and hit its lowest ever recorded in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center. That rate remained mostly unchanged in 2012 with about 3.9 million births, according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
La Fleur Small, an associate professor of sociology and geriatrics at Wright State University, said the financial impact of having a baby is just one component of a declining overall birth rate.
Women are waiting until their mid-30s or later to start having children, giving them more time to advance their education or professional career and less time to have multiple children, Small said. Gender equity also has opened the door for parity in the workforce between men and women, she said.
Small believes birth rates will continue to decline, but life expectancy will increase because of improved healthcare and medical innovation.
“… There will be less children because of the affordability of it,” Small said. “But even though women are having less children, the population is doing really well because people who are born are not dying.”
Birth rates have remained steady at Springfield Regional Medical Center since 2008, when there were 1,282 births. The number increased to 1,468 in 2009, followed by 1,290 in 2010, 1,315 in 2011 and 1,294 last year.
Rose McKelvie, Springfield Regional’s service line director for women and children’s services, said the hospital’s large birthing suites/postpartum rooms in the facility’s new birthing center make an attractive feature.
Additionally, women generally deliver at the hospital where their doctor goes, McKelvie said.
“They will go where that physician recommends,” McKelvie said. “Typically, women choose their doctor, not their hospital. They trust them, therefore they trust us. We’ve got good doctors and good service. Women are staying loyal to us.”
Jessica Carmin of Springfield gave birth to her and her husband’s first child, Colby, on Tuesday at Springfield Regional. Jessica and Caleb — both 28 years old — have been married for five years, and they said the time was right to have a baby.
“We’ve been together for quite a while, we both are well into our professions, and we’ve always wanted kids,” Caleb said. “We were finally ready.”
Caleb is a nurse at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, while Jessica is a reading intervention tutor at Possum Elementary in the Clark-Shawnee school district. They said their career aspirations are still on track, and childcare for Colby will be taken care of by family members who live nearby.
“That’s part of the reason why we waited until now to start a family,” Jessica said. “We wanted to make sure we were prepared.”
Jones said he’s not concerned about the birth rate decline because it’s been a steady drop that has followed closely with state and national trends. If the birth rate was increasing or decreasing at a higher rate, the health organization would dig deeper into the numbers, he said.
He expects the birth rate to eventually level off, citing an economic turnaround that will influence more people to have children, in addition to improvements in health risks associated with giving birth.
“Whenever we do comparisons, we try to see where we are in comparison to similar counties, the state and nationally,” Jones said. “Because we’re following the same trend, it’s not necessarily something we believe will negatively impact the community.”