US births lowest in 3 decades despite improving economy

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America’s baby bust isn’t over. The nation’s birth rates last year reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, a government report shows, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years.

The provisional report, released Wednesday and based on more than 99% of U.S. birth records, found 3.788 million births last year. It was the fourth year the number of births has fallen, the lowest since 1986 and a surprise to some experts given the improving economy.

The fertility rate of 1.7 births per U.S. woman also fell 2%, meaning the current generation isn’t making enough babies to replace itself. The fertility rate is a hypothetical estimate based on lifetime projections of age-specific birth rates.

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The Artificial Womb moves forward

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A view of a fetus in an artificial womb, 1965.

Researchers successfully nurture extremely preterm lamb fetuses outside a natural womb. Photo: Fritz Goro

If you live for about 80 years, your nine months in the womb will represent less than 1% of your time on Earth. But those nine months represent a crucial period for growth and development.

Sometimes, though, babies are born before they get those nine full months in utero. And while the accepted protocol is to place premature infants in an artificial incubator — protecting the baby from infection and maintaining temperature and humidity — soon there may be better options.

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