Nunavut leads with single mothers

Baby stats paint troubling picture


Young, single and pregnant: Nunavut babies are more likely to have unmarried teens as mothers than anywhere else in the country.

In 2003, of the 758 births in Nunavut, 522 were to single, never-married mothers.

About 35 of these babies were born to girls under 15, and 150 to teenagers aged 15 to 19.

Statistics Canada says Nunavut has the highest rate anywhere in Canada for teen mothers. The rate for teens 15 to 19 is more than 11 times higher than in Quebec and two times higher than in the Northwest Territories.

In the United States, about 20 babies out of 1,000 are born to teen mothers. In Nunavut, more than 200 babies out of 1,000 would be born to teen mothers.

Overall, the youngest mothers in Canada are in Nunavut, where the average age of a mother is about 25 years. The average age of first-time mothers is also lowest in Nunavut, about 21.

Nunavut’s babies are also born earlier than other babies in Canada. The territory has the highest rate of pre-term delivery. More than one out of 10 babies is born early, at under 37 weeks.

Babies born before their full term of 40 weeks can develop a variety of problems. Pre-term birth is responsible for most infant deaths in Canada. Later in life it can cause lung and eye problems as well as developmental delays in children.

Pre-term delivery also costs the health system more because of the increased medical care the infants require.

Pre-term birth is often caused by sexually transmitted infections, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure in pregnancy and psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety and depression.

Babies in Nunavut weigh less than babies born elsewhere in Canada. The average birth weight of 3,402 grams or seven and a half pounds is the lowest in Canada.

Statistics Canada says “the vast majority of babies born in Canada have a healthy weight at birth” and that less than six per cent of babies born have a birth weight under 2,500 grams or about 5.5 pounds.

But in Nunavut, more than six per cent of babies have a birth weight under five and a half pounds, and many weigh under 3.3 pounds.

Newborn infants in Nunavut continue to die at a rate that’s about three times higher than the national average.

Nunavut still shows the highest total fertility rate of any province or territory, with each Nunavut woman bearing three children on the average.

One out of 10 babies in Nunavut were born in June or January. August was the least popular month for births recorded in the territory.

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