Once considered a crisis in Connecticut and nationally, teenage pregnancy rates have dropped to new record lows, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2000, the CDC reported that 48 of every 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in the United States had a child, which resulted in 469,000 teenage births. In 2014, the national number dropped to 24 for every 1,000 teenage females or 249,000 babies born to young moms.
In Connecticut, the same report found that for every 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, 31 teens gave birth, or a total of 3,300 births in 2000. By 2014, the number had declined to a rate of 12 per 1,000 females, or 1,400 births.
The reasons for the sharp decline vary, according to health experts and the CDC’s Youth Surveillance Survey. Sexual intercourse among teens has declined. In 2013, CDC’s Survey reported that 46.8 percent of the nation’s teenagers said they had sex at least once. By 2015, the number had dropped to 41.2 percent of teenagers. Similarly, in Connecticut over the same time period, the percent of teenagers who said they had sex dropped from 41.1 percent to 33 percent, according to new report figures.
Practicing safe sex – using condoms or other means of contraceptive – may also be contributing to the decline in the teen birth rate, according to the CDC’s Youth Surveillance Survey.
Nationally, condom use among sexually active teens has increased from 38.5 percent to 43.1 percent between 2007 and 2015. Over the same time period, Connecticut’s sexually active teens have followed a similar trend, with the number increasing from 37.3 percent to 40.6 percent.
Numbers relating to birth control pill use are also increasing both nationally and in Connecticut. In 2013, 80.2 percent of sexually active teens nationally used the pill as a contraceptive method, and by 2015, the number climbed to 81.8 percent.
Connecticut’s sexually active teenagers took similar action, with the percent of teens using the pill rising from 72.1 percent to 73.2 percent from 2013 to 2015.
Use of other contraceptive forms, such as the shot, patch, and ring, were also gauged on the survey. Nationally, 95.3 percent of sexually active teens used one or more contraceptives, and this number reached 97.4 percent in 2015. In 2013, 95.8 percent of Connecticut’s sexually active teens used one or more of these methods, and by 2015, the number rose to 98.4 percent. Eighty-six percent of the nation’s sexually active teens reported using some form of contraception the last time they had sexual intercourse.
The safe sex initiative has been mobilized by significant increases in both state and federal funding to educate the nation’s youth. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s administration answered the public’s long-time demand for safe sex education by passing the Adolescent Family Life Act, which allocated $50 million a year to providing America’s youth with such services. Funding has skyrocketed over the years, which many experts believe is a reason behind the sharp decline in teenage births.
In 2010, public spending on teen childbearing totaled $9.4 billion nationally, with Connecticut spending $116 million on its programs across the state, according to a report by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Hartford has been a particular target for funding, with the city recording some of the highest teenage birth rates in Connecticut. In 2008, nearly 30 out of every 1,000 teenage females in Hartford gave birth, but by 2013, the number dropped substantially to just 15 per 1,000, Trend CT reported.
Funding through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has assisted many young women and programs in Hartford, said Carmen Chaparro, project manager for Teen Pregnancy Prevention in Hartford..
“This funding has allowed developers to test curricula, has allowed local communities to use evidence-based strategies to educate youth, link youth to clinical services where they can access the most effective contraception methods and support youth leadership and community mobilization,” she said. “As a result, youth are choosing to delay sex, have protected sex when they do have sex, and they are talking about sex to their partners and peers.”
After receiving its second round of funding and working with the CDC, Hartford has had a complete turnaround, with teenage birth rates dropping by 40 percent between 2010 and 2014, Chaparro said.
But Susan Yolen, the vice president for policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said more can be done.
“There have been strides made in pregnancy prevention and contraception use, but more needs to be done to educate young teens about the kinds of birth control options that are available,” Yolen said in a recent interview.
Brendan Collins is a student at Daniel Hand High School, Madison.