Health

Calif. women waiting longer to have their first child

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Across the country, women are waiting longer to have their first child, and in California they're waiting even longer, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2000, the average California woman had her first child at 25.3 years of age, the CDC says. By 2014, that figure had jumped by nearly two full years, to 27.2.  Nationally, the average age at first birth went from 24.9 in 2000 to 26.3 in 2014. 

This change comes amid a decline in teenage births, and California is a leader in that trend, says Dr. Claire Brindis, director of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco.

The state's teen birth rate dropped 50 percent between 2000 and 2013, to a rate of 23.2 births per 1,000 teens, according to a June 2015 report from the California Department of Public Health.

"The fact that Latino childbearing among teenagers has been decreasing very dramatically… is one of the factors that contributes to this picture," says Brindis.

As fewer teens become parents, more adult women are choosing to delay pregnancy. Nationwide, the proportion of first births to women ages 30 to 34 increased 28 percent between 2000 and 2014; first births to women over age 35 increased 23 percent.

"It used to be that when we didn't have as many options for women, or when we didn't encourage them to go to college or graduate from college, or other kinds of job training, parenthood was really one of the prime options in their lives," Brindis says.

That women are postponing pregnancy signals that efforts to provide women with more opportunities are paying off, she adds, noting, "I consider it a success if women and their partners have made this as a conscious decision."

Brindis also points to California's implementation of the Affordable Care Act to explain the state's increasing age at first birth. The federal health law requires health plans must cover birth control methods, without charging a copay or coinsurance.

"Women are now using better contraceptive methods," Brindis says. "Long-acting, reversible contraceptives are more readily available for women who have signed up for Covered California or for Medicaid."