The teen pregnancy rate is at a record low in many states, but especially in Connecticut.
Connecticut was ranked 50th in 2015 for teen birth rates, age 15 to 19, reports the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Pregnancy rates for teens have been declining for decades, and have gone down 75 percent from 1991 to 2015. Recently, from 2014 to 2015, the teen pregnancy rate dropped 13 percent.
The cause of this sharp decline in teen birth rates could be attributed to a number of things. Rosemary Richter, coordinator of Teen Pregnancy Prevention at UConn Health, said the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative sponsored by the state Department of Social Services, is somewhat responsible even though it is impossible to prove the exact cause of the decrease.
Richter, who is also the Community Health Program supervisor at UConn Health, said this is because “TPPI targets Connecticut communities with the largest proportion of teens who are at increased risk for early parenthood and furthermore utilizes only ‘best practices’ that are science-based approaches to avoid adolescent childbearing.”
She said low-income teens and those who have problems in school or drop out are more at risk of getting pregnant. “Poverty is the single best predictor of teens becoming parents,” Richter said. “There are definitely communities in Connecticut where the incidences of births to teens greatly exceed the statewide average in Connecticut. All of the communities that are plagued by these higher incidences of too-early parenting are communities with more people living at or under the federal poverty level.”
Richter added that diminished access to health care can lead to higher teen pregnancy rates, saying a “lack of access to birth control most definitely increases the incidence of teen pregnancy. Lack of access to abortion increases the likelihood that a teen pregnancy will lead to a birth to a teenage mother.”
Richter said that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as promised by the administration of President Donald J. Trump, contraception and abortion will likely follow, leading to “a considerable upswing in births to teen mothers in Connecticut and across the United States.”
Access to proper health care services has been an important factor in decreasing the teenage pregnancy rate, she said.
But Richter said although contraceptives are helpful, “if a teen is not consistently motivated to avoid pregnancy, the risk is still very high.”
Merely providing contraceptives is not the solution; educating and motivating teens is important, she said.
Sex education is also important to reducing teen pregnancy and is a part of the state prevention program. “Teens in our programs, when tested on their knowledge about contraception and sexuality in a pre- and post-test, their knowledge increases are statistically significant,” Richter said.
She added that the teens in the program are more likely to delay engaging in sexual behavior and when they do, are more likely to practice safe sex. Education combined with access to health services and products prove most successful, she said.
In the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2017, the percentage of teens that had ever had intercourse decreased from 41.8 percent in 2007 to 32.4 percent.
Madeleine Lefranc is a senior at Simsbury High School.