When the economy tanks, women are less likely to have children.
That's a conclusion of a new Pew Research Center study that found that states with the greatest economic declines in 2007 and 2008 -- calculated by per capita income, unemployment rates and several other indicators -- experienced the greatest birth declines in 2008 and 2009.
And women's health care organizations say a trifling economy doesn't only affect babies, it also puts a strain on related services. Fertility clinics are losing patients, and family planning clinics are struggling to keep up with a surge in demand for their services.
Data from the study shows that the number of births in the U.S. dropped by more than 300,000 over a four-year period, from about 4.3 million in 2007 to about 4 million in 2010.
Birth rates dropped from 69.6 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44 in 2007 to 64.7 per 1,000 last year.
Around the same time period, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, for example, says it experienced a 45 percent jump in the number of women who turned to the organization for family planning services.
Planned Parenthood, a women's health nonprofit that specializes in providing birth control methods to low-income women, saw 16,378 patients through the family planning program in the 2008 fiscal year, which grew to 25,167 in 2010.
The family planning program provides multiple services, including counseling, blood pressure exams, breast exams, pregnancy tests, gynecology exams, STD tests and blood pressure tests. Yet most clients come in seeking birth control, said Rebecca Cavanaugh, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.
The Pew study found that minorities most affected by economic strife had the highest fertility declines.
Hispanic births dropped 5.9 percent between 2008 and 2009, while black births dropped by 2.4 percent and white births by 1.6 percent. Cavanaugh said there are several reasons why more women are seeking services, including new pregnancy prevention education in local schools and changes to Medicare, but she said the economy is a key factor.
After the economic downturn, many women lost their jobs and the health care coverage that often comes with it, and they turned to the organization for low-cost or no-cost birth control.
In addition to a hike in women seeking birth control, the health facility also saw a decline in the number of clients seeking abortions -- a statistic that suggests women are postponing or abstaining from having children, she said.
Christy Tippet, a registered nurse and spokeswoman for the Center for Fertility and Gynecology in Wexford, Pa., said the economy is hurting business at fertility clinics across the country.
"People seeking treatment has dropped dramatically in the past five years," she said.
(Contact Taryn Luna at tluna(at)post-gazette.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)