Pregnancy problem

GLOVERSVILLE – The teen pregnancy rate has dropped significantly statewide, but it’s going up in Montgomery and Fulton counties, according to state Department of Health data.

Statewide, the rate per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17 was 25.3 in 2011 and 22.6 in 2012, the latest numbers available.

The rate in Montgomery County was 24.7 in 2011 and 27.9 in 2012. The rate in Fulton County was 21.4 in 2011 and 22.5 in 2012.

Nationwide the teen pregnancy rate has dropped. According to the Centers for Disease Control, rate for teens ages 15 to 19 was 31.3 in 2011 and 29.4 in 2012. The national rate was a record low for U.S. teens in this age group. Birth rates fell 8 percent for women ages 15 to 17, and 5 percent for women ages 18 to 19 nationwide.

Between 2009 and 2011, the state Department of Health said 26 out of 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 got pregnant in Montgomery County and 20.1 out of 1,000 girls got pregnant in Fulton County.

Denise Hodges, program director for the Catholic Charities Community Maternity Services, said Gloversville has a high teen pregnancy rate for girls ages 15 to 19.

Maternity Health Services, which operates in Fulton and Montgomery counties, helps pregnant teens by getting them to doctor’s appointments, helping them obtain health care and working with young mothers to ensure their babies get a good start in life. Hodges said many of the referrals for the group’s services come from schools.

“We don’t have to advertise because we have more than we can handle,” Hodges said.

She said the program aims to help girls not only get by after having children, but also to get ahead in life. She said the organization tries to help girls set and make goals for themselves and prevent future pregnancies.

Hodges said parents can help their children starting at birth by setting a routine for establishing family rules. She said parents need to make education an important value and can do this by reading to children when they are little.

She said parents should not just tell their children not to have sex, but should try to discuss the possible problems that could come along with being sexually active at a young age.

“It’s important to talk about the consequences,” Hodges said.

Linda Scharf of Planned Parenthood of Mohawk Hudson said Fulton and Montgomery counties’ teen pregnancy rates “remain among the highest in upstate New York.”

Hodges said generational poverty may be one cause of the high rates in Fulton and Montgomery counties. She said Fulton County has a high rate of children in poverty, and 63 percent of births in Gloversville are births by mothers who receive Medicaid.

Scharf said two of the big causes of teen pregnancy in Fulton and Montgomery counties is affordability of contraception and a fear of not having confidentiality when trying to obtain services.

She said Planned Parenthood tries to overcome these fears by helping people obtain low- or no-cost birth control and letting people know about their rights to confidentiality under state law.

She said the community health educator for Planned Parenthood can work with families to not only prevent teen pregnancy, but to talk about a variety of sexual health-related topics with their children.

“We would like families to reach out to us,” Scharf said.

Scharf said it’s important for parents to talk to their children about sex. She said parents should look for teachable moments such as while watching television.

“We encourage parents to talk,” she said. “We know its difficult, but even silence sends a message.”

Fonda-Fultonville middle and high schools introduced a sexual education program in 2008. Before this, the district had no kind of sexual education.

Middle School Principal Elizabeth Donovan said at the time the program started, there was a pregnant middle school girl. After discovering this, the district decided to put in place a sex-ed program that would include information about preventing pregnancy.

At the start, the school used Planned Parenthood’s community educator, but eventually created its own plan, which is used to this day.

Donovan said since the program began, the district has not had a pregnant middle school girl, to her knowledge.

The program at Fonda-Fultonville encourages parents to communicate with the school and ask questions about the curriculum from the buildings principals and health educators. She said since the program has been put into place, communication between parents and the district has improved.

Donovan said parents are encouraged to not only communicate with administrators, but also with their children.

“Our goal is to open the lines of communication,” Donovan said.

For more information about Planned Parenthood of Mohawk Hudson, go to www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-mohawk-hudson For more information about Maternity Health Services, go to www.ccms.org.