Drop in births, teen births, c-sections and pre-term deliveries

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MERRIAM, Kan. -- The nation's birth rate dropped to another record low last year with teen births dropping by 10 percent in just one year. That data was released by the government Thursday. C-sections and premature births dropped a little.

Harlow Smith entered the world two weeks ago more than two months early. Her mom, who'd had a healthy pregnancy, starting having back pain.

"And they tried to slow down the contractions and stop the birth, but it just kept progressing," said Lauren Smith, her mother.

Harlow's premature arrival happened for reasons that aren't clear yet. She's receiving care in the neonatal intensive care unit of Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

There are many reasons women deliver prematurely. One of them has been just because they want to have labor induced or have a c-section a little early. But babies born a month or even a few weeks early are more likely to have breathing, feeding and temperature problems than those born later.

"Women are starting to understand that delivery when they want to isn't really an option anymore, that they need to deliver when their baby is due and that's the healthiest thing for the baby," said Dr. Jodi Jackson, a neonatologist at Shawnee Mission.

In addition, many hospitals in the metro and elsewhere have banned those early elective deliveries. Dr. Jackson said those policies and more awareness of risks are reasons why the pre-term birth rate dropped again last year in America to just over 11 percent of births. The c-section rate also dropped slightly, but it's still nearly one in three births.

"It's something we still need to work on. There certainly are times women need to have c-sections but there are times that they don't, and those are the ones we need to focus on," said Dr. Jackson.

She says women need to be educated that the best option whenever possible is to deliver the baby the natural way instead of the surgical way.

The new government figures also show that while the birth rate for teen moms and those in their twenties continues to decline, it's increasing for women in their thirties and forties.

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