Birth rates among Colorado teenagers have dropped by 40 percent over the last five years, a result of a state initiative that aims to help young women avoid unwanted pregnancies, state officials announced last week.
“That is not a small drop, that is a very significant drop,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the state's chief medical officer, during a July 3 Capitol press conference.
Reducing teenage birth rates is a goal of the 2008-launched Colorado Family Initiative, a program that has provided more than 30,000 intrauterine devices at little or no cost for low-income women.
As a result, Colorado moved from the 29th lowest birth rate in the country in 2008 to the 19th lowest in 2012.
The birth rate drop has saved the state more than $40 million in public funds. That's due to a 23 percent caseload reduction for the state's Women, Infants and Children program, which provides nutrition education and support for low-income women and their children, according to statistics provided by Gov. John Hickenlooper's office.
Teen abortion rates have also fallen. The state saw a 35 percent drop in that number from 2009 through 2012 in counties that are served by the initiative.
Wolk and Hickenlooper said that unwanted pregnancies among teenagers can have serious health and psychological impacts on women and their children.
Mothers who are involved in unwanted pregnancies are at a higher risk of being physically abused and the pregnancies can sometimes lead to abortions.
Children born as a result of unwanted pregnancies can sometimes experience child abuse, neglect and a range of mental health issues, officials said.
“We see that waiting until the mother is in the right place at the right time and ready to have children really creates a better situation for everyone concerned,” Hickenlooper said.