As teen pregnancy rates dropped throughout New Mexico, Eddy County struggled to address the issue locally, according to child well-being reports.
The county has the fifth-highest teen birth rate in the state according to the 2020 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book.
The county with the highest teen birth rate in 2019 was Luna County (64 per 1,000) followed by Quay (53 per 1,000), Socorro (48 per 1,000) and Curry counties (47.5 per 1,000).
According to a 2021 report, 24 out of 1,000 teens in New Mexico between the ages of 15-19 gave birth in 2019, higher than the United States average of 17 per 1,000. However, teen pregnancy in New Mexico decreased from 53 per 1,000 in 2010.
In Eddy County 46.4 out of every 1,000 teen girls gave birth in 2019. That means 1 in every 22 girls between the ages of 15 to 19 was pregnant that year.
Lea County had the sixth-highest teen birth rate in the state at 45.4 out of 1,000, and Chavez County had the seventh-highest at 36.4 per 1,000.
Otero County has a teen birth rate of 27.4 per 1,000. Lincoln has one of 20.1 per 1,000 and has the ninth-lowest teen pregnancy rate in the state.
While most of the state saw a decrease in teen births in recent years, Eddy County increased from 34.3 per 1,000 in 2018 to 46.4 per 1,000 in 2019.
Even though Eddy County’s teen pregnancy rate recently increased, the county still saw a steady decline over the last 10 years.
In 2012, 71.8 per every 1,000 adolescents girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had a baby. By 2018 that number had dropped to an all-time-low of 34 per 1,000.
Data shows that teen pregnancy may have long-term consequences that can hurt the mother and her child.
According to the National Kids Count Data Center teens are at higher risk of giving birth to low birth weight and preterm babies.
Teen moms are also 50% less likely to graduate high school by the time they are 22 and their children are more likely to have lower school achievement and to drop out of high school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC stated that these children are also more likely to have health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager and face unemployment as a young adult.
Certain groups face high levels of teen pregnancy than others, according to the CDC.
In 2019, the birth rates for Hispanic teens (25.3 per 1,000) and Black teens (25.8 per 1,000) in the U.S. were more than double that of white teens (11.4 per 1,000).
“Social determinants of health, such as low education and low income levels of a teen’s family, may contribute to high teen birth rates,” the CDC stated on their website. “Teens in certain settings are at higher risk of teen pregnancy and birth than other groups. For example, young women living in foster care are more than twice as likely to become pregnant than young women not in foster care.”
What is being done to help?
Public health clinics throughout the state offer family planning services to people of all ages. The New Mexico Family Planning Program aims to help reduce unintended pregnancy through low- or no-cost clinical services and community-based programs, according to the Department of Health.
New Mexico laws allow teens to go to these clinics without their parent’s permission, the DOH website stated.
The Eddy County Health Offices are located at 1306 West Stevens in Carlsbad and 1001 Memorial Drive in Artesia.
Quality sexual health education aims to give teens the knowledge to prevent unintended pregnancy and protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Students are required to take a sexual health education course before they can graduate high school unless parents chose to opt-out.
The class covers topics such as human sexuality, body systems and health problems associated with sexually transmitted diseases—among others—according to the Carlsbad High School Curriculum Guide.
Local organizations also offer assistance to teen moms in Eddy County.
The New Beginnings Carlsbad Caring Pregnancy Center and the Pregnancy Help Center of Artesia are anti-abortion non-profits that offer free pregnancy tests, information on expectant mothers’ options and parenting classes, according to their websites.
“We offer free pregnancy tests, free ultrasound when we have a nurse, parenting classes and a free closet, with maternity and baby clothing,” said Executive Director of the Pregnancy Help Center Amanda Ramsey. “When a teenager comes to our office they fill out a short questionnaire…We talk to them about being educated on how their body works.”
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.