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Birth rates up in Henry, Clayton

By Greg Gelpi

Defying national trends, Clayton and Henry counties are reporting an increase in births.

Both Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale and Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge said they have delivered more babies this year than last year.

Southern Regional experienced more than a 5 percent increase, Vicki Meares, clinical manager for labor and delivery, said. Last year, 4,807 babies were born at the hospital. She predicted that by the end of 2003 about 5,020 to 5,030 babies would have been born at Southern Regional.

Henry Medical averages about 185 to 190 births each month, hospital spokesperson Jennifer Dougherty said. The hospital is on pace to have 2,280 births for 2003, an increase from 2002.

With the increased birthrate, Meares said there has also been an increase in premature births, but said about the same percentage of births are premature.

Meares said most mothers giving birth choose to be given an epidural shot to ease the pain. About 70 to 80 percent choose the shot, which is administered through the mother's spine.

A new birthing trend, one that isn't as popular yet, but is catching on is the use of doulas, Meares said. Doulas are specially trained assistants who comfort mothers during the birthing process.

"It is increasing," she said, speaking from her experience at Southern Regional. "I wouldn't say it is common."

She said that birthing trends tend to start in different regions of the country and slowly spread. For instance, the trend in the West is underwater births, she said. That trend has yet to reach the South.