Good news for teen birth rates

Birth-control availability, use played heavy role

A health initiative that increased access to birth control dropped teen birth rates by 40 percent statewide over the past four years.

La Plata County also saw the level of teen births decrease similarly as the state results, said officials at the San Juan Basin Health Department.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative provided more than 30,000 intrauterine devices or implants at low or no cost to low-income women at family planning clinics across Colorado since 2009, a news release said.

“This initiative has saved Colorado millions of dollars,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper in a news release. “But more importantly, it has helped thousands of young Colorado women continue their education, pursue their professional goals and postpone pregnancy until they are ready to start a family.”

IUDs and birth control implants are very effective and long-lasting methods to prevent pregnancy. La Plata County birth statistics for girls ages 15 to 19 show that 55 babies were born to teen moms in 2008. The number was 31 babies in 2012.

“The most effective way to prevent unexpected pregnancy is to use contraception,” said Liane Jollon, executive director of the San Juan Basin Health Department. “We’re pleased to offer this service. We think it’s a valuable and worthwhile service.”

Colorado moved from the 29th lowest teenage birth rate in the nation before the initiative began in 2008 to 19th lowest in 2012. The state teen birth rate for girls 15 to 19 was 37 births per 1,000 in 2009. The rate last year was 22 births per 1,000.

Seven of 10 teen pregnancies in Colorado are unintended, the news release said. Research shows unintended pregnancies are associated with birth defects, low birth weight, elective abortions, maternal depression, reduced rates of breast-feeding and increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy. Children born to mothers who did not intend to have children are more likely to experience child abuse, poor health and educational challenges. Teen mothers are also less likely to graduate from high school or earn as much as women who wait to have children.

“Unintended pregnancies, especially among teenagers, carry health risks for mother and baby,” said Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The family planning initiative also helped reduce social and economic costs to Colorado, the news release said.

The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in those counties served by the initiative. The infant caseload for Colorado Women, Infants and Children – which provides nutrition education and support to low-income women and their babies – fell 23 percent from 2008 to 2013. And Colorado saved millions in health-care costs associated with teen births – $42.5 million in public funds in 2010, according to the latest data available.

smueller@durangoherald.com

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