Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Takes Aim At Unsafe Birth Spacing

One focus of the Teen Options to Prevent Pregnancy (TOPP) program is the dangerously short intervals between births among some young mothers. Studies have demonstrated that women need at least 18 months between pregnancies to reduce the risk of infant and child death, underweight infants, and pregnancy complications. “Our motivation for this is to protect the overall health and well being of these young mothers and their babies,” said co-principal investigator Lea Blackburn, LISW, OhioHealth System Director of Community Partnerships.

OhioHealth expects to serve 600 participants between the ages of ten and 19 through its obstetric clinics at Riverside Methodist Hospital, Grant Medical Center, Doctors Hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital and through the Wellness on Wheels unit. 

“There’s not a whole lot known about birth spacing among teenagers,” said principal investigator Dr. Patricia Litts, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist with the Wellness on Wheels prenatal care program. “We are hoping to prevent subsequent pregnancies within 18 months and, in the process, find out why these girls are becoming pregnant again by looking at factors such as education, birth control and level of care.”

Dr. Litts became concerned about safe birth spacing in the Wellness on Wheels program. “Girls were coming back to us shortly after having their prior babies,” she said. “It was such a large number that it prompted us to look closer at this issue. We thought maybe there was something we could do to break the cycle.”

OhioHealth began its own initiative to address the issue when the opportunity for the federal grant occurred.  The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital will provide an objective evaluation of the process and outcome of the study.  “We really think this study can have an impact on the health of our community,” Blackburn said. “And we are so pleased to be able to partner with Nationwide Children’s Hospital because it is also one of the leading organizations in promoting maternal and child health in our region.  Its mission is perfectly aligned with ours.”