Big differences in teen birth rates among Bay State cities

Last week the state Department of Public Health released its 119-page report on the 77,934 births that occurred in Massachusetts in 2007. (You can get a considerably briefer press release here.) The authors voice concern about a 12 percent jump in mothers with gestational diabetes, which may be related to rising obesity rates.

A couple of long-term trends seemed to hit a wall in 2007:

–After many years of increases, the average age for a woman's first birth, 27.6 years, was down slightly from 27.7 years in 2006. Still, 53 percent of all births were to mothers over 30; in 1980, that figure was only 25 percent.

–The percentage of births that were cesarian sections went up from 33.4 to 33.7, but that was the smallest annual increase since 1997 (when only 19.6 percent of births were C-sections).

–And the percentage of mothers who reported that they intended to breastfeed their children dropped from 79.9 percent to 79.2 percent, but that was still a lot higher than the 52.2 percent reported in 1989.

There are striking geographic differences in the incidence of births by teenagers. The birth rate in Holyoke was 95.4 per 1,000 females ages 15 through 19. That was more than four times the statewide rate of 22.0 births per 1,000 teens.

There were 512 births by teens in the city of Springfield — almost as much as the 588 teen births in Boston, even though the latter city is almost four times as populous. Boston, in fact, had a significantly lower teen birth rate than any of the state's 11 Gateway Cities:

Holyoke: 95.4
Springfield: 84.3
Lawrence: 76.0
New Bedford: 66.7
Fall River: 59.0
Lowell: 54.2
Pittsfield: 52.7
Brockton: 47.0
Fitchburg: 45.4
Worcester: 35.7
Haverhill: 35.1
Boston: 29.7
Statewide average: 22.0
Brookline: 3.4