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Recession economy affecting U.S. birth rate?

March 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
First car sales, then housing. A new report says the economy is impacting families in more ways than you may think.

Doret Ovadia is expecting her third child, but she didn't plan it that way. While her husband is thrilled with the idea of three girls, he knows it's going to be pricey.

"Kids are very expensive, especially girls. Going to the mall, it's a whole new adventure now," said Doret's husband, Oren Ovadia.

It's an adventure fewer and fewer couples are willing to undertake. A new government report finds between 2007 and 2009, the number of babies born dropped dramatically: the biggest decline in 30 years. One possible explanation: the economy.

"It doesn't surprise me. I think that the recession has all sorts of far-reaching effects," said maternal fetal medicine specialist Dr. Nicole Hausman, Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills.

Hausman says she and her colleagues are seeing fewer women having babies. The decline is seen across the board in all racial and economic groups in women ages 15 to 40.

But the one group that did not see a decline is women over age 40. Those aged 40 to 44 saw their birth rates climb 6 percent. Since this is the age group that often seeks fertility treatments, Hausman says it makes sense.

"I think it is certainly plausible that the women who are getting help are becoming pregnant more frequently because of that help," said Hausman.

Experts agree this is probably a temporary trend. Many predict once the economy picks up, so will the number of people having babies.

But the Ovadias say that's it for them -- and this time they mean it.

"It was a surprise baby but I don't think I'm going to go for the fourth one," said Doret.

Statistics show the birth-rate decline has continued far into 2010 as well.

A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report says it now costs as much as $475,680 to raise a child to age 18. And that does not include the cost of college.