Five Thousand Adolescent Mothers Helped at CU’s CAMP

Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program (CAMP) provides emotional support, medical care and life guidance to young mothers, a third of whom suffer physical or emotional abuse.

DENVER (November 17, 2014) – “When the doctor said I was pregnant, I couldn’t stop crying,” said Arlin Rueda, a 20-year-old single mother in Denver recalling the day she was 17 and found out she was pregnant. “I was just really scared.”

Adolescent mothers feel like any new mom. With thoughts revolving around a new baby, they hold on to hope for their child’s future. Yet, many pregnant adolescents struggle with uncertainties in life. Some deal with abusive situations at home while others struggle to stay on track with education goals. Hope is hard to grasp when a teen mom is told she will fail as a mother.

In its 20-plus year history, CAMP has guided an estimated 5,000 young Colorado mothers through these uncertainties and into a bright future. Arlin Rueda is a CAMP mother.

The primary goals of CAMP, a partnership effort of the University of Colorado’s Ob/Gyn Department and Children’s Hospital Colorado, are achieving the healthiest births possible for pregnant adolescents and creating the healthiest parenting environment for adolescent mothers.

CAMP’s philosophy recognizes that adolescent pregnancies are not the same as older-age pregnancies. The traditional care model of a doctor acting as a gatekeeper and referring for other services as they recognize needs is not appropriate for adolescent mothers.

“Teen mothers usually don’t come out and describe problems, such as an abusive situation with their boyfriend,” said Stephen Scott, MD, chairman of Pediatric Gynecology at CU and CAMP co-director. “We’ve flattened our model so we have social workers, case coordinators and nutritionists seeing adolescent patients on a regular basis from the very start, which helps put out fires before they occur so these mothers are not going from crisis to crisis.”

Linking how a teenager’s pregnancy is developing to her larger social environment is key to the program’s success. Mental health is an important aspect of that, and CAMP has a fulltime psychologist who sees the adolescent mothers throughout their pregnancies, then continue to provide counseling and support after delivery for postpartum issues.

CAMP is located at Children’s Colorado in order to be in the same clinical space as Children’s Young Mothers Clinic, which is the second arm of CAMP run by Children’s Department of Pediatrics. Once CAMP patients deliver, they continue to be seen by the same social workers, nutritionists and mental health providers as before, along with receiving pediatric care for themselves and their babies.

One of CAMP’s goals is to reduce pre-term (early) deliveries, which adolescent mothers experience at higher rates than older mothers, even though due to their youth they don’t have the same underlying medical conditions that promote pre-term births in adult women.

Scott said that mental health issues, a stressful home environment and economic factors play into pre-term births in adolescents. Stress in-and-of itself may be a risk, or it may lead to risky sexual behaviors or substance abuse that contribute to preterm births. Teens are often not aware of the warning signs of premature labor and seek care too late to prevent early deliveries.

Reducing repeat teen pregnancy is a hallmark of CAMP’s success. Whereas the national average among teens for a second pregnancy within 12 months of birth is 20-25%, CAMP patients’ rate is about 12%. Scott says the program’s partnership with CU’s and Children’s Family Planning programs gives teens access to long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). The CAMP staff is very effective in motivating mothers to initiate effective contraceptive choices.

Any teen can enter CAMP, which accepts 450-500 teens a year and sees 250-300 of them through delivery. About 80 percent of participants are Medicaid eligible, and the program seeks out teens with the greatest socio-economic needs. Funding is tenuous at best, with federal, state, Children’s Colorado and CU funds and facilities subsidizing a substantial percentage of care provided.

About University of Colorado OB/GYN & Family Planning

University of Colorado OB/GYN & Family Planning is one of the most diversified OB/GYN practices in the Denver area. Notable services at our women’s health clinics include university hospital care with a private practice model, women’s health research & studies, contraception, pregnancy care, infertility treatment, VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), & menopause treatment.