Special Report: Declining birth rates among certain age groups

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Margaret Knoedler knew she wanted to become a doctor, but making that decision also didn't really give her much time to consider future plans such as marriage and children.

"I definitely wasn't ready to settle down and have children,” said Knoedler. “I was really thinking that i wanted a career."

She knew becoming a doctor was a long path but that was her focus. She along with 2 of her siblings are physicians.

"I always felt like it was possible and something I knew could be done,” said Knoedler.

Her mom and dad both are also physicians and they raised four children.

"It's possible to have a career and have children and you can kind of do everything and have everything," said Knoedler.

Her husband is a physician as well. He just graduated his residency program. Knoedler said it was a really hard decision deciding when they were going to have children.

"We felt like residency was a very busy time in our lives but we're really not going to have a time when we're not busy." Knoedler said.

They debated waiting.

“A lot of female physicians wait until they're done with the craziest part of their training," said Knoedler.

But now.they're expecting their first child. They both come from very large families, so they hope to have even more children in the future.

"We're in this strange time where the optimal biological time to get pregnant is probably in your early 20s,” said Dr. Susan Davidson, a maternal fetal medicine specialist with SSM Health in Madison. But, that's not the optimal emotional, financial or sociological time to be pregnant, so I think as humans we have a little bit of a mismatch."

Dr. Davidson focuses on high-risk pregnancies. She said she's seeing more women delaying pregnancy.

"Especially in Madison where we have a fairly well-educated, career-oriented population, women are often delaying relationships and they're delaying childbearing," said Davidson.

Both in Wisconsin and across the country there's a decline in birth rates among certain age groups.

In 2005, there were 12.7 births per 1000 people in Wisconsin compared to 14 births per 1000 in the entire country. However, in 2016, there were 11.5 births in Wisconsin, compared to 12.2 nationally.

The decline is partially due to a decrease in teen pregnancy rates with a 60 percent drop in state from 2005 to 2016. In contrast, there's an increase in birth rates for older women.

Women 30-34 increased 10 percent

Women 35-39 increased by 14 percent and

Women 40-44 jumped 23 percent.

There are known risks for complications with pregnancy for older moms.

Dr. Davidson said the moms themselves are more likely to suffer with diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and they're more likely to give birth to twins and triplets, which come with risks as well as give birth to children with chromosome variations.

Dr. Davidson said women 35 or older at the time of delivery are considered advanced maternal age.

"It's not that you get to be 35 and everything falls apart,” said Davidon. “It's like everything else, it's a continuum, so the complications increase as you get older, but there isn't any magic clif that you fall off of."

Dr. Davison said women who take care of themselves with good nutrition, no underlying disease and aren't obese will experience fewer complications.

Experts say teen pregnancy rates are dropping in part due to better youth education programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data that found teen pregnancies in Wisconsin and Minnesota rank among the lowest in the country.

Rates are also dropping among women in their early 20's, which experts believe could lead to fewer people in the future workforce.