Teen pregnancies cost the taxpayer $11 billion a year.
When a teen has a baby she has up a 12% to 49% chance of having another baby within the same year. Having two teenage births dramatically increases the risk of a premature delivery and a stillbirth with the second baby as well as further decreases the likelihood that the teen will finish high school and increases her likelihood of relying on public assistance. Abortion rates are also very high among teen pregnancies.
GIven these health and socioeconomic issues, preventing a second teen pregnancy should be one of our highest priorities. This should be a no brainer that both democrats and republicans can actively embrace (I mean decrease welfare, decrease abortion, decrease teen pregnancy, decrease premature delivery and stillbirth? Talk about a great unifying set of causes).
A study from the University of Colorado’s CAMP (Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program) tells us how we can achieve this goal of reducing a 2nd teen pregnancy: the etonogestrel contraceptive implant (Implanon).
In this observational study adolescents who had just delivered were offered immediate rod insertion (the manufacturer recommends waiting for 4 weeks, but there is not biological reason to delay a progestin post partum) or usual contraceptive counseling (as an aside all the teens were informed that inserting the rod early was not supported by the package insert). 171 teen moms opted for the implant and 225 decided on other contraceptive measures.
The results: at 6 months post delivery NONE of the implant group were pregnant as compared with 9.9% (21) of the other contraceptive methods group. By one year 2.6% of the implant group were pregnant and 18.6% of controls. It is important to note that of the 4 teens who were pregnant in the Implanon group at one year, three had elected to have the implant removed and were using another method when they became pregnant. So there was only one rod failure out of the 132 teens who were still using that method at one year – a failure rate of < 1%.
So if a teen mom who has just delivered keeps the Implanon she has a < 1% chance of being pregnant within the year (and 86% still had the implant by a year). For the pro-life people, that also means a < 1% risk of abortion. If she goes with any other contraceptive option her risk of another pregnancy with 1 year is close to 20%. Keep in mind the CAMP program probably has a better overall repeat teen pregnancy rate than average as it is a dedicated teen health program with a significant emphasis on post natal and infant care that includes education and employment planning as well as parenting skills.
Teen pregnancy remains a huge issue in the United States: there were 367,752 infants birth to mothers aged 15-19 in 2010. Half of teen moms don’t graduate high school. While teen pregnancy rates are slowly decreasing, given the significant health and socioeconomic ramifications with a repeat teen pregnancy and the success of using the Implanon post partum, every State should include (and emphasize) immediate Implanon insertion for teens post delivery as part of their maternal medical program.
Offering publicly funded Implanon to teens post partum is not the sign of a nanny state, it’s cost-effective high quality evidence based medicine that reduces both abortion and premature delivery. I call on every politician to get behind this effort now.