Cameron’s little smile eventually surfaced, accentuating his chubby cheeks as he gently rocked back and forth.
The 2-month-old boy seemed happy in a motorized swing.
His mother, 19-year-old Corrine Engel, also appeared delighted, staring at the person she adores most.
“I talk to him and tell him that I love him, and he is my perfect little boy,” Engel said.
But the Huron resident had to make some sacrifices when Cameron came into this world.
“It’s a lot more difficult than people think,” Engel said during a recent interview. “I’m not with the father. I’m not able to see my friends. I’m not able to work. Just trying to find baby sitters so I can get things done is tough.”
Many younger mothers can sympathize with Engel’s struggles.
About 250 mothers ages 14 to 19 gave birth in Erie County from 2008 through 2012, according to a Register analysis of Erie County Health Department data obtained through a public records request.
This group accounted for 9.4 percent of all births in Erie County during this five-year period.
The data also reveals the local teenage birthrate has decreased over time. In 2012, for instance, 7 percent of all births in the county came from teen moms, a drop from the 12 percent, or 71 teens, in 2002.
The decline in Erie County jibes with national statistics. The teen birthrate in the U.S. plummeted from about 42 per 1,000 teens in 2007 to 31 per 1,000 teens in 2011, according to data recently released by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The steady decline in teen pregnancy represents one of the nation’s great success stories,” Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said in a release.
The organization, which seeks to improve the lives and future of children and families, is still wary of the figures.
“Despite all of this amazing progress, it is still the case that nearly three in 10 girls get pregnant by age 20, and that the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate among comparable countries,” Brown stated.
As an example, the U.S. teen birth rate nearly triples Canada’s 13 births per 1,000 teens, and it’s almost double the United Kingdom’s 27 births per 1,000 teens, according to The National Campaign.
Erie County’s plunging teenage birth rate could be partly attributed to better access to birth control, said Dr. Laurie Rousseau, a Berlin Heights family medicine physician affiliated with Firelands Regional Medical Center.
“Access is probably improved due to increased education about how and where to obtain birth control,” Rousseau said. “Within the past 10 years, the cost of birth control has become much more affordable for those who do not have insurance or if their plan doesn’t cover birth control.”
Case in point: A variety of generic prescription oral contraceptives can be purchased for about $9 a month at most convenience stores and pharmacies, Rousseau said.
And while it’s cheap and effective, birth control is also relatively safe, Rousseau said.
Most birth control medicines, however, require a prescription from a health care professional. But condoms can be purchased over-the-counter at most pharmacies and convenience stores.
“When used consistently and correctly, they are an excellent form of birth control,” Rousseau said about condoms.
A new healthcare policy authored by President Barack Obama a year ago now provides better access to birth control.
“Access is available now, free and to anyone under 18 at their local health department and family planning clinics,” Rousseau said. “Over the age of 18, the cost is adjusted based on income and ability to pay.”
There are also safeguards in place to ensure a teenage mother’s care remains private.
“Any teen can be seen by their private physicians for any reproductive issue — birth control, counseling, sexually transmitted disease treatment, etc. — with complete confidentiality without parental consent,” Rousseau said. “The
Affordable Healthcare Act will mandate that all insurances cover more prescriptions for birth control.”:
Helping teens and tots
In Erie County, two leading organizations help young mothers cope with the surprises and stress of parenthood. At the Erie County Health Department, officials educate thousands of children each year about the risks of teen pregnancy.
Whether they’re in school or visiting the Superior Street facility, officials routinely inform teens about sex.
“(Teens) receive the usual standard of maternity care,” Erie County health commissioner Pete Schade said. “We do address specific needs and require parental consent to treat a teen under 18. We can refer them to other community resources as needed.”
Workers at Heartbeat of Sandusky, a Perkins Township-based pregnancy center and maternity home, aim to provide mothers and families with emotional support as they enter trying times.
The nonprofit social service agency does not receive any government subsidies. It assisted about 350 people in 2012.
Among the programs catered to teen moms: SMILE, where nurses from Firelands Regional Medical Center talk to teen moms and moms-to-be about preparing for motherhood. The talks range from nutrition to labor and delivery along with properly bathing a baby.
“None of us are perfect,” Heartbeat’s executive director Mattie Sparks said. “Rather than being the problem, you can be part of the solution. Young moms come in here. They made a poor choice, so we have to help and encourage them. All someone needs is helping making good choices, and we want to move forward and make the best of the decision.”
Engel’s not enrolled in either program.
And despite the challenges she faces today, and expects later on, being a parent still thrills her.
“I love being a mom,” Engel said. “It’s wonderful. I like staying home with him. Whatever he is interested in, I’m going to support him 100 percent and hope he gets everything he wants in life.”
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Expectant teens and those who already given birth can turn to local agencies for help:
Erie County Health Department
Where:420 Superior St., Sandusky
Heartbeat of Sandusky
Where: 3423 Columbus Ave., Perkins Township