Why Teen Pregnancy Is Plummeting in Colorado

Study offering free IUDs, implants shows dramatic results
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2015 8:51 AM CDT
Why Teen Pregnancy Is Plummeting in Colorado
In this undated file image provided by Merck, a model holds the Nexplanon hormonal implant for birth control.   (AP Photo/Merck, File)

Science continues to back up an American Academy of Pediatrics policy change recommending teenage girls use long-acting birth control methods rather than the pill. Over six years, Colorado offered women free IUDs and implants as part of "one of the largest ever real-life experiments with long-acting birth control," reports the New York Times. The result: teenage pregnancies fell by 40% from 2009 to 2013 and abortions plunged by 42%, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Births also fell among unmarried women under 25 who didn't finish high school. "Our demographer came into my office with a chart and said, 'Look at this, we've never seen this before,'" says a public health department rep. "The numbers were plummeting."

About 20% of women between 18 and 44 are now using a long-acting method in Colorado, compared to 7% of women in that age group nationwide. Compared to the pill, "the difference in effectiveness is profound," the study author says, noting the failure rate for the pill was 5%. That figure for implants and IUDs was less than 1%, probably because they don't require any action from the woman. Though the teen birthrate hit a historic low last year, experts say Colorado's experiment may have been a driving force in the change. That could be ending, though, as the grant that funds the state program is dwindling, though the state suggested every dollar spent on the program saved $5.85 for Colorado's Medicaid, the Times reports. Some health care plans only offer certain birth control methods, and only new plans must provide free contraception. (More teen pregnancy stories.)

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