The US birth rate hit another record low in 2019. Experts fear we're facing a 'demographic time bomb' that could be fast-tracked by the pandemic.
The U.S. fertility rate declined 1% between 2018 and 2019, hitting a 35-year low, according to a CDC report on Friday.
The report also found that the percentage of mothers starting prenatal care in the first trimester increased for white and black women, but the rate of preterm births increased by 2% for all groups.
Experts say the persistent baby bust is mainly due to couples delaying childbirth and having fewer children, if they do so at all.
The decline is part of a global phenomenon that leads some experts to fear a "demographic time bomb" or when there aren't enough young people to support an aging population and economy.
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Fewer babies were born in the United States in 2019 than in the last 35 years. A trend some experts have warned about could result in a “demographic time bomb” or if birth rates decrease with increasing life expectancy.
Friday's report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the U.S. fertility rate declined 1% between 2018 and 2019, including among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic populations.
It was also found that the percentage of mothers starting prenatal care in the first trimester increased for white and black women, but decreased for Hispanic women. The premature birth rate rose 2% to more than 10% in all groups for the fifth time in a row from 2018 to 2019, the report said.
Experts say the continuing "baby bust" appears to be mainly due to changes in attitudes towards parenting, leading more people to delay childbirth and have fewer children, if they have children, if they have children at all.
The trend is part of a larger global phenomenon that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to make worse.
Preliminary data showed that birth rates have decreased in younger age groups and increased in women over 40
A preliminary report released in May, using a slightly less complete version of the same data, disaggregated the decline in the birth rate by age group.
It turned out that the births of teenage mothers had decreased significantly again. The birth rate among 15- to 19-year-olds fell by 7% between 2017 and 2018 and by a further 5% between 2018 and 2019.
Women aged 20 and over also gave birth less often in 2019, and the rate of women aged 35 to 39 remained constant.
However, in women over 40, the birth rate increased by about 2%, maintaining a theme that has also been seen since 1935.
"More and more couples are delaying starting their families for professional and other personal reasons," said Dr. Eric Forman, director of medicine and laboratory at Columbia University's Fertility Center, told Insider, adding that the good news is that children could have children later in life. "are better than ever."
"There are excellent ways to maintain fertility when the time is not right to have a child, such as freezing eggs," he said.
However, other experts fear that some couples assume that fertility treatments are more effective than them. "Although [assisted reproductive technology] is successful, there are limitations in old age," said Dr. Feinberg previously told Insider.
The falling birth rate is a global phenomenon that could lead to a demographic time bomb
The general trend of falling birth rates has worried some experts who say the United States could suffer a demographic time bomb where ultimately there aren't enough young people to support both the economy and older people who continue to live longer.
"From a societal perspective, there could be an economic impact in the future if the population declines, as has been seen in some countries like Japan," said Forman.
Insider reported that demographic time bombs could, in extreme cases, lead to the permanent extinction of a country's population.
The phenomenon is not limited to the United States. A Lancet study published in July predicted that almost every country will shrink and some will halve by the end of the century because women have fewer children.
In 1950 the average number of children a woman had was 4.7. Until 2017 it was 2.4. By 2100, according to the study's authors, it will fall below 1.7.
And once women have fewer than 2.1 babies each, the total population decreases. In fact, researchers at the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted that the world's population will peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 and drop to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.
"This study offers governments of all countries the opportunity to rethink their policies on migration, labor and economic development in order to address the challenges of demographic change," said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray, who led the research, in a press release.
It is unclear how the coronavirus pandemic will affect birth rates in 2020
While celebrities appear to be enjoying a baby boom, the coronavirus pandemic could have the opposite effect on the general population. "Research into previous pandemics and major natural disasters with high mortality rates shows that the birth rates are falling as a result," Forman told Insider.
Also, many people who need medical help to get pregnant have had to postpone their fertility treatments. Some may not resume their care or find it too late when they are ready or able.
Other couples hold back naturally because so much remains unknown of how the virus affects pregnant women and their future children.
However, the impact of the coronavirus on birth control and access to abortion could outweigh these changes. Only time can tell.
Couples are told to delay fertility treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. Some fear they will miss out on the chance to have children.
The sharp decline in global fertility rates could create a demographic time bomb, with some populations expected to halve by 2100
There are benefits to terminating pregnancy during the coronavirus pandemic. It's still up to you, say experts
The coronavirus 'baby boom' is only for the rich and famous. Most people are too scared to think about having children right now.
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