Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today the teen birth rate in Colorado dropped 40 percent from 2009 through 2013, driven by a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment initiative that helps low-income women get long-acting reversible contraceptives.
"Unintended pregnancies, especially among teenagers, carry health risks for mother and baby," said Dr. Larry Wolk, department executive director and chief medical officer. "Our Colorado Family Planning Initiative has helped thousands of young women who weren't ready to have children avoid pregnancy with affordable, safe and effective contraceptives."
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative has provided more than 30,000 intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants at low or no cost to low-income women at 68 family planning clinics across Colorado since 2009. The decline in births among young women served by these agencies accounted for three-quarters of the overall decline in the Colorado teen birth rate.
While the family planning initiative has helped thousands of young women avoid unintended pregnancy, it also has helped reduce social and economic costs to Colorado. The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in those counties served by the initiative. The infant caseload for Colorado WIC, a program that 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 expenditures associated with teen births, $42.5 million in public funds in 2010 alone based on the latest available data.
"This initiative has saved Colorado millions of dollars," said Gov. Hickenlooper. "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."
Colorado moved from the 29th lowest teenage birth rate in the nation before the initiative began in 2008 to 19th lowest in 2012. The percentage of young women receiving IUDs and implants quadrupled in clinics participating in the initiative. These contraceptives are more effective than other forms of birth control and are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Seven of 10 teen pregnancies in Colorado are unintended. Research shows unintended pregnancies are associated with birth defects, low birth weight, elective abortions, maternal depression, reduced rates of breastfeeding 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 less likely to graduate from high school or earn as much as women who wait to have children.
Health department staff members Sue Ricketts and Greta Klinger and co-author Renee Schwalberg describe the initiative in "Game Change in Colorado: Widespread Use of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives and Rapid Decline in Births Among Young, Low-Income Women." The article appears in the Guttmacher Institute's fall issue: Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. It details how the initiative reduced unintended pregnancy, expanded clinic capacity and serves as a model for family planning coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
In addition to long-acting reversible contraceptives, the initiative provided training, outreach and technical assistance to family planning clinics statewide.