Garfield County births on the rise | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County births on the rise

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Aspen

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The number of births in Garfield County grew by 16 percent between 2005 and 2006, and was 56 percent higher than in 1996.

Too many births in the county are to females who are underage, unmarried, poorly educated, and/or not receiving adequate prenatal care, said Sandy Swanson, director of the Family Visitor Programs.

Altogether, 945 live births occurred in the county last year, up from 816 the year before and 604 in 1996. The increase is in keeping with a continued population boom in the county.

“We’ve got lots of babies being born,” Swanson told Garfield County commissioners Monday, speaking on behalf of the county Human Services Commission.

Swanson, whose agency works to support and educate expecting and new mothers, is particularly concerned about 3.3 percent of the 2006 births. Those involve mothers between 10 and 17 years old.

“What we’re seeing is that in Garfield County we still continue to have a number of very young children having babies. We still are up there. I would like to see that number be zero,” Swanson said.

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Swanson said the local YouthZone program, which works on problems such as delinquency and substance abuse, tends to deal with mostly male teens.

“I think that at-risk females are in our program and they’re getting pregnant,” she said. “It’s not that there’s less girls in trouble, it’s that they’re in trouble in a different way.”

Another concern for Swanson is that almost 37 percent of moms giving birth in the county last year didn’t receive prenatal care until after the first three months of their pregnancy, if at all. Inadequate prenatal care can contribute to more premature births, she said. About 8.5 percent of births last year were pre-term, and about the same percentage involved babies of low birth weights.

Swanson said the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the state no longer provides prenatal care assistance for women who can’t afford it.

Nearly 30 percent of those giving birth in the county last year had fewer than 12 years of education. About 27 percent were unmarried.

“Moms who have less than a high school education and who aren’t married have a tendency to have greater difficulty in terms of finding the personal assets and the financial assets to raise that baby,” Swanson said.

More than 40 percent of Latino mothers giving birth in the county last year were unmarried, as were about 17 percent of Anglo ones. Poor education also was predominantly a Latino problem. About six out of 10 Latino mothers didn’t have 12 years of education, compared to fewer than one in 20 Anglo mothers.

Nearly half of Latino mothers received late or no prenatal care, compared to a little more than a quarter of Anglo ones.

However, 21 percent of smoking, expectant moms in the county were Anglo, versus about 6 percent who were Latino.

In total, almost 14 percent of moms giving birth in 2006 smoked. Nearly a fifth of the smokers were 18 or 19 years old.

Overall, about 53 percent of births in the county last year were to Anglo moms, and 44 percent were to Latinos.