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Cooperative Data Report: South Jersey saw baby boom in 2021 Teen, C-Section births also down

Press of Atlantic City - November 15, 2022

By Eric Conklin

Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties are still seeing a decline in births while the rest of South Jersey showed signs of a baby boom in 2021.

In a new report by the South Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, a nonprofit coalition that addresses birth deficiencies, the three counties each saw about a 10% drop in hospital births between 2017 and 2021.

The cooperative attributes Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland's numbers to having fewer families of childbearing age. Families living in those three counties expecting children are showing signs of being more open to delivering in a neighboring county.

Meanwhile, in 2021, Camden (5.9%), Burlington (3.7%), Salem (16.5% increase) and Gloucester (10.3%) counties each showed an uptick in birth rates in 2021.

Overall, South Jersey's birthrate peaked in 1990 and has been on a "rapid" downward skid since 2007, the cooperative said.

The baby boom represents a 4.1% increase made possible by heavier birthing periods in the second and third quarters, the cooperative said. A total of 18,491 children were born that year, the largest one-year increase in 30 years.

Charts in the cooperative's study show percentages of hospital births and births to county residents.

Camden County residents and hospitals contributed the most to the boom, at 30.9% and 48.6%, respectively. Cape May, with 1.4% at hospitals and 3.8% of citizens, contributed the least.

The trend is consistent with statewide trends over the same period, said Helen Hannigan, the cooperative's executive director.

"We're interested to see whether that continues or not," Hannigan said of last year's numbers.

Teenage births for girls under 16 also continued to decrease last year.

Teens contributed to 0.6% of South Jersey births. Most teenagers having babies are either 18 or 19, the report says.

"While we continue to be encouraged by the sustained decline in births to teens over the last decade in South Jersey, it remains an area of concern for us, as teens who are giving birth are starting their families earlier in life and in turn, have fewer opportunities for educational and career development, which has a long-term impact on the birthing individual’s life,” said Hannigan.

Fewer women in the region are having cesarean births, commonly known as "C-sections." About 30.5% of South Jersey children born last year came into the world through the procedure, a positive sign because the birthing technique risks the health of both the infant and the mother, Hannigan said.

"We recommend there be no intervention for a C-section before 39 weeks unless it’s medically indicated,” she said.

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