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Oh, baby: Mercy sets birth record

Courtesy of Mercy Regional Medical Center

Mercy Family Birth Center nurses Kathy Dezendorf, standing left; Hallie Yoder, kneeling; and Margo Philpott, far right, co-director of Mercy’s Family Birth Center; present proud parents Renee and Kyle Davis with a gift basket to commemorate the birth of Reagan Clare Davis, the record 101st baby delivered at Mercy in July. Reagan, born at 2:12 p.m. July 31, weighed 7 pounds and 2 ounces, and she measured 20 inches.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

The 101 babies born at Mercy Regional Medical Center in July set a one-month record for the hospital and lends support to a U.S. Fertility Forecast report suggesting the fertility rate in the country is nudging upward.

July’s total eclipsed by one the number in October 2010, Margo Philpott, a registered nurse and co-director of the Family Birth Center at Mercy, said Thursday.

“In 2010, we set a record,” Philpott said. “Then the economy caught up with us and births decreased.”

The record was tied when the 100th baby to be born at Mercy in July arrived. Cora Elizabeth Jackson was born at 8:26 a.m. Wednesday. Sarah and West Jackson are the parents of Cora, who weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 20 inches.

Six hours later, Reagan Clare Davis was born to Renee and Kyle Davis of Farmington. Reagan, born at 2:12 p.m., weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and measured 20 inches.

USA TODAY reported Thursday that the U.S. Fertility Forecast predicts that the total fertility rate will rise from a 25-year low of 1.89 children per woman in 2012 to 1.90 this year.

“The United States has seen marked declines in childbearing in the wake of the Great Recession, but we think that this fertility decline is now over,” Sam Sturgeon, the president of Demographic Intelligence, was quoted in USA TODAY. “As the economy rebounds, and women have the children they postponed immediately after the Great Recession, we are seeing an uptick in U.S. fertility.”

The total fertility rate is a hypothetical rate, not an actual measurement.

In 2012, the average number of births in a given month at Mercy was in the high 70s, Philpott said. Then in early 2013, average monthly births fell to the low 70s, bottoming out at 51.

Then came July.

Philpott thinks the upturn in births marks a changing attitude toward the economy.

“It could be a confidence marker,” she said. “It could show confidence in the economy. We’ll see if it holds.”

National experts agreed.

The fertility rate “says something about people’s optimism for the future – their optimism about their economic circumstances,” said demographer Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C.

“It is quite possible that we’ll see a bump in the fertility rate since the economy is improving and people are feeling better about jobs,” Mather says. “The bigger question is, ‘Will that be sustained in the long run?’”

The total fertility rate reflects the number of births a woman is expected to have in her lifetime if she were to experience the current age-specific fertility rate. To calculate it, Demographic Intelligence looked at statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The company’s models incorporated birth data as well as past and current economic and other indicators.

The report also notes attendance at religious services is associated with higher levels of fertility in the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“Much of the downturn in births is related to economic factors, but economic factors do not affect the fertility decisions of all parents or future parents,” Sturgeon said. “We started to wonder about various groups that might make fertility decisions based on other factors, and religious persons seemed to be a natural group, so we explored this with the data,” he said.

Among women 15 to 44, those who attend religious services weekly or more have 1.42 children, compared with the 1.11 children of women who rarely or never attend.

Women who attend religious services weekly intend to have 2.62 children, and those who rarely or never go want to have 2.10 children.

“Partly because religious communities provide a family-friendly context to the women who attend them, religious women are more likely to have children and to bear a comparatively high share of the nation’s children, compared to their less religious or secular peers,” Sturgeon said.

USA TODAY contributed to this story.

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