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Birth Report Good News—for Some

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

There's plenty to celebrate in a recently released report on 2010 birth statistics in the state, compiled by the Mass. Department of Public Health.

The headline news: the 2010 teen birth rate in the commonwealth was the lowest ever recorded, with 17.1 births to women between the ages of 15 and 19, down from 19.5 births in 2009.

The report also found that fewer women smoked during pregnancy (6.3 percent—hardly a good thing, but a drop, nonetheless, from the 6.8 percent who did in 2009); that 84.9 percent of pregnant women received “adequate prenatal care,” up from 84.3 percent the previous year; and that 83 percent of new mothers were breastfeeding or intended to breastfeed at the time they were released from the hospital, up from 82 percent.

Still, not all the data was rosy. As the report authors note, “Disparities in birth outcomes by race and ethnicity, education, source of prenatal care payments, and by community persist.”

Hispanic teens had the highest teen birthrate, 49.3 per 1,000 girls; that was 4.7 times the birthrate for white teens. Teen birth rates also remained especially high in poorer communities; Holyoke, for instance, continued to lead the state with 83.6 births per 1,000 teenaged women. In Springfield, the rate was 54.3 per 1,000. (Springfield also had the highest rate of births to unwed mothers in the state: 71.4 percent of births.)

The infant mortality rate for African-Americans—8.2 deaths per 1,000 births—was significantly higher than the statewide rate of 4.4 deaths, and black infants were two and a half times more likely to die than white babies. Women on public health insurance were six times more likely to smoke than women covered by private insurance.

And, the report noted, women with a high school education or less “were less likely to receive adequate prenatal care, more likely to report smoking during their pregnancies, more likely to have publicly financed prenatal care, and more likely to deliver low birth weight infants” than women with college degrees. Women with more education were also more likely to breastfeed.•

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