May 10, 2024 - Health

28: The average age Louisiana moms give birth

A line chart showing showing the share of U.S. babies born by maternal age. Between 1997 and 2023, the share of babies born to very young mothers has been dropping, and the share born to older mothers growing.
Data: CDC Wonder; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Women in Louisiana are becoming mothers later in life than 25 years ago, provisional CDC data shows.

Why it matters: In the last few years, age 35 has gone from the start of "geriatric pregnancy" to potentially a maternal-age sweet spot.

The big picture: Today, the average Louisiana woman gives birth at 28.

  • The national average is 29, up from 27 in 1997.

By the numbers: In 2023, 40.1% of births in Louisiana were to women 30 and older. In 1997, it was only 26%.

  • Another big shift was with teen pregnancy. In 1997, 18.6% of births were to patients 19 and younger. In 2023, that number fell to 6.5%.
  • Birth rates also flip-flopped for Louisianans in their 20s. In 1997, more people gave birth between 20 and 24 years old. In 2023, that shifted to women aged 25-29, the data shows.

Regions with higher income and education levels "are correlated with increased advanced maternal age," partly because women there are deliberately delaying pregnancy for economic reasons, says Jane van Dis, OB-GYN and assistant professor at the University of Rochester.

Catch up quick: 35 became the start of "advanced maternal age" decades ago, thanks to studies on the then-new invasive genetic test called an amniocentesis.

  • But that's a "dated paradigm," and "there's nothing really particularly magic" about age 35, says Alison Cahill, professor and associate dean of translation research at the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School.
  • We have since learned that the amniocentesis risk is much lower than previously thought.

Reality check: Risks, including of miscarriage, increase much more after age 40, compared to 35.

More factoids about Louisiana moms:

  • C-sections: Louisiana's C-section rate (36.1%) is higher than the national average (32.4%).
  • Working mothers: More New Orleans moms are participating in the workforce within 12 months of giving birth. The city's rate of 69% is higher than the national average of 66.6%.

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