The number of babies born to teens in New Mexico in 2014 was low enough to finally drop the state out of first place for the state with the highest teen birthrate.
The Department of Health said Wednesday that the state dropped to fourth place, tying with Texas, with 37.8 births per 1,000 teens. Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi now hold the top three spots.
“We are very excited about this. It does mean we are moving in the right direction,” said Retta Ward, secretary of the state Department of Health.
She said that’s about a 45 percent drop over the past 15 years.
She credits years of emphasis on giving teens access to free or low-cost birth control at public health locations, on educating teens about intentional parenthood and on how to find information about healthy sexuality.
She said teen parenthood is a “primary driver of generational poverty” and contributes to poorer health, economic and education outcomes for teen mothers and their children. The 2014 annual Kids Count report ranks New Mexico the third-worst state for kids living in poverty.
In 2014, there were 2,533 children born in New Mexico to teens ages 15 to 19, according to the state Health Department. That is about 45 percent fewer births in 2014 than there were in 2000, when the state registered 4,648 teen births.
In 2014, 1,772 of the babies were born to Hispanic moms, 358 to white moms, 40 to black moms, 402 to Native American moms and 12 to Asian moms. Teens reporting more than one ethnicity were counted more than once, according to data compiled by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Susan Lovett, the program manager for family planning at the Health Department, said that medical providers and educators have been working with teens on making intentional parenthood plans.
“We ask, do they want a child in the next year?” she said.
And then staff at the state’s 73 clinics and provider sites and in classes help them select appropriate birth control for their plans.
The teens using those sites have increasingly been using long-term birth control, such as an intrauterine device. That type of birth control among teens at the sites increased from 4 percent of clients in 2009 to 11 percent of clients in 2014, according to the DOH.
The national average of teen births per 1,000 people is 24.2, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
The title for worst state for teen births now goes to Arkansas, with a rate of 39.5. That is followed up by Oklahoma, with 38.5, and Mississippi, with 38 per 1,000 teens ages 15-19.
The state with the lowest number of teen births is Massachusetts, with 10.6 per 1,000, followed by New Hampshire, with 11 births per 1,000 teens.
The birthrate for the whole nation in 2014 was the lowest ever recorded, at 12.4 births per 1,000. The adult rate in New Mexico was 12.6 births per 1,000.