Apr 29, 2024 - News

Arkansans are giving birth later

Share of Arkansas babies born to mothers in select age&nbspgroups
Data: CDC Wonder; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Almost 36% of Arkansas babies born in 2023 had birth mothers in their 30s or older, according to provisional CDC data.

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

Nationally, 51.4% of babies born in 2023 had birth mothers in their 30s or older.

By the numbers: Arkansas has the third-youngest average age of people giving birth — 27.5 years old — behind Mississippi and West Virginia. The average age nationally is 29.6.

  • The percentage of babies born to people 19 and under in Arkansas dropped from 19.2% in 1997 to 7% in 2023. Nationally, it fell from 12.7% to 4% during the same time frame.
  • The most common age range to give birth in Arkansas shifted from 20-24 in 1997 to 25-29 in 2023; nationally, it moved from 25-29 to 30-34.

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 Dr. Jane van Dis, OB-GYN and assistant professor at the University of Rochester.

Birth mothers age 35 received more prenatal monitoring and had a small decrease in prenatal mortality compared to those even a few months younger, according to a 2021 JAMA Health Forum study.

Catch up quick: The start of advanced maternal age was put at 35 decades ago, thanks to studies on a then-new invasive genetic test called an amniocentesis.

  • Researchers determined that for a pregnant person 35+, the chances of carrying a baby with a genetic condition were greater than the risk of pregnancy loss as a result of getting an amniocentesis to test for that Researchers determined that, for a pregnant person 35+, the chance of carrying a baby with a genetic condition was greater than the risk of pregnancy loss from having an amniocentesis to test for that condition, said Dr. Tiffany Pham, OB-GYN and Flo Health medical adviser.

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 Dell Medical School of the University of Texas in Austin.

  • We have since learned that amniocentesis isn't as risky as once believed.
  • And there are now less-invasive and lower-risk procedures for prenatal genetic screening.
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