Teen pregnancy rate on the decline

Published 26 February 2014  |  
(Photo: Lucasbite)

New numbers from the Office for National Statistics show that the rate of pregnancy among girls under-18 in England and Wales has dropped to its lowest level since 1969.

The rate of conceptions for those between 15 and 17-years-old stood at 27.9 conceptions per 1,000 women in 2012.

The single area with the highest teenage pregnancy rate was Middlesbrough, with a conception rate of more than five in every 100 girls aged between 15 and 17.

There were estimated to have been 27,834 conceptions among under 18s in 2012, a drop of 10% from 2011's figure of 31,051.

This means that in 2012, under-18s conceptions represented 3.15% of all pregnancies, compared to 3.42% in 2011.

Those under-16 made up an increasingly smaller fraction of that total, with the ONS estimating a total of 5,432 conceptions in 2012, a decline of 9.3% compared with 2011, when the ONS recorded 5,991 under-16 conceptions.

Pregnancies among those under 16 made up only 0.61% of all pregnancies in 2012, and 0.66% in 2011.

Nearly half (48.7%) of all teenagers who get pregnant end up having abortions, resulting in 13,555 teenage terminations in England and Wales in 2012.

Despite the decline, the UK still has a much higher teenage pregnancy rate than its European neighbours.

Alison Hadley, an expert in teenage pregnancy at the University of Bedfordshire and adviser to PHE on the issue, said in the Independent: "Continued investment and dedication over the last ten years has paid real dividends but the England under 18 conception rate remains higher than other Western European countries.

"We need to find ways to both sustain the significant reductions we've made and accelerate progress.

"Evidence and lessons from local areas show us young people need comprehensive sex and relationship education in and out of school, easy access to young people-centred contraceptive and sexual health services, and targeted support for those most at risk.

"Progress needs to be everybody's business with strong local leadership and all practitioners and services in touch with young people supporting them to make informed choices."

Hilary Pannack, chief executive of teenage pregnancy education charity Straight Talking, welcomed the declining numbers while still remaining cautious.

Speaking in Daily Express, she said: "We can't take our eye off the ball and we need to be concerned about the next generation.

"With these very high youth unemployment figures we need to be aware the rate could go up again."

She added: "These are 2012 figures, let's see what the figures in 2016 say about this year."

These figures fit the pattern of the overall birth rate trends in Britain in the last decade and a half.

Between 2001 and 2010 there was a gradual rise in the birth rate, increasing from 1.63 births per woman in 2001, to 1.98 in 2010.  In England and Wales conceptions numbered 909,245 in 2010.

However that number seems to have peeked and the UK is now seeing an overall birth rate decline.

In 2012, there was an estimated 884,748 total conceptions in England and Wales, compared to 909,109 in 2012, a drop of 2.7%.

But there was a note of optimism for those wanting children later in life. UK women between 35 and 39 saw a 1% conception rate increase in 2012, and those over 40 saw an increase of 0.7%

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said in the Courier: "These statistics demonstrate the trend towards older motherhood is continuing.

"At Bpas we see many younger women who are choosing to postpone starting their family for a number of reasons. Some have not met the right partner, whereas others want to wait until they have greater financial security, a home of their own, or progressed further in their chosen career.

"It is important that reproductive healthcare services, whether providing contraception, abortion or maternity care, reflect this shift.

"While pregnancy and childbirth for older women may present particular challenges, with some mothers requiring additional support, the answer is to provide the services that they need, rather than attempt to cajole women into having children earlier than they feel is right for them."

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