CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — The number of babies born out of wedlock is at a record high, and experts expect the trend to continue.
According to the latest vital statistics report from the Department of Public Health, Iowa's out-of-wedlock births climbed to 14,018 in 2007.
That means slightly better than one out of three deliveries involved a baby born to unwed parents. It is the 32nd time in 34 years the figure has increased, dating to 1974 when the number was 2,959.
Iowa State University assistant professor Teresa Downing-Matibag teaches a course on intimate relationships and says Iowa's out-of-wedlock figures mirror national trends.
She said they reflect a society where casual sexual encounters are more common and there is inadequate knowledge of how to guard against unintended pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.
"The research is showing young people are somewhat ambivalent about out-of-wedlock births," she added.
Other interest groups said they were not surprised.
"With the overall status of society, that does not surprise me," Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, said. "We think it's healthiest for families to have a mom and a dad in the home. Now, not everybody can do that, we know that."
Deb Madison-Levi of Iowa Initiative, a privately funded program focused on reducing unplanned pregnancies in Iowa, said more than half of the unintended pregnancies involve women aged 18 to 30.
"That's a huge number," she said.
Edward Saunders, an associate professor who directs the University of Iowa School of Social Work, said the data indicates comprehensive adolescent pregnancy prevention programs in 54 Iowa counties have proven to be effective but a large segment of the state remains unserved or underserved.
Also, he noted that the birthrate among Iowa teens aged 15 to 19 was unchanged in 2006 national data while 26 states posted increases.
Nationally, the teenage birthrate was 41.9 per 1,000 births, while Iowa's stood at 32.9 per 1,000 births.
Overall, the 40,835 live births in Iowa's latest statistical profile were the highest yearly total since 1985 and pushed total population to 2,988,046. U.S. Census Bureau officials recently issued new estimates pegging Iowa's head count at 3,002,555 as of last July.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.