Decoding the Drop: Colorado’s Declining Birth Rate Leads the Way to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies

The day has come. The stats are tracked. The good news is here: birth rates for women 24 and under in Colorado has dropped rapidly and dramatically in recent years. This press release from the Governor even uses the word “plummet,” so yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. Huge, actually.


The lion’s share of credit for this extraordinary progress goes to a program spearheaded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative provides women who otherwise couldn’t afford it with low-cost or no-cost long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as IUDs or the implant. The initiative has provided more than 30,000 LARCs to women at Title X family planning clinics statewide since 2009.


These highly effective forms of birth control are recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization—yep, all four of the big guys—and it’s pretty clear why. Now that more couples have access to the tools they need for responsible family planning, the impact is overwhelmingly positive. LARC use increased from under 5 percent to over 20 percent among women 15­–24 years old in counties participating in the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, and the state birth rate dropped 14% for women aged 20-24 between 2009 and 2011.


Think the newsworthy nuggets stop there? Well buckle up, Beforeplayers—because we’re just getting started.


In 2008, 46% of the pregnancies in Colorado were unintended. That’s a lot of people getting pregnant by accident. But as these recent stats show, as birth rates fall, the unintended pregnancies rate is likely dropping too. That means fewer women all across Colorado are experiencing the challenges associated with unplanned pregnancy. These range from birth defects and low birth weight to maternal depression, reduced rates of breastfeeding and increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy. Moreover, children born to mothers who didn’t intend to have kids are more likely to experience child abuse, poor health and educational challenges. So as unintended pregnancy rates go down, so does the risk of these unfortunate outcomes. Another thumbs up.


Oh! And then there’s this key finding: the increased access to long-acting reversible contraceptives not only reduced Colorado’s incidence of unintended pregnancies, but of abortions as well. In the counties with Initiative-participating clinics, the abortion rate fell 35% for 15–19-year-old women and 18% for 20–24-year-old women from 2009 to 2012. We’re not surprised that increased use of better contraception means that there’s less need for abortion, but we’re seeing the reality of that now in Colorado. How about a high five on that one?


So that’s the story, in a long, detailed, super fascinating nutshell. These stats are proof that young Coloradoans are now learning more about available birth control methods and effective family planning. They’re becoming more involved in their own sexual health. They’re thinking. Talking. Engaging in key resources like—ehem—your one and only And as the resulting conversations gain traction, the entire state continues to benefit. So here’s a big pat on the back for you, Colorado. Together, we’re making good things happen.