One in ten students pregnant before graduation

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The Independent Online
YOUNG WOMEN who go on to study at college are more likely to get pregnant than females who leave school aged 16, according to research published yesterday. One in ten women who continued her studies at sixth- form college or university has been pregnant at least once before graduation, and three-quarters of these pregnancies were unplanned, the study of more than 1,000 women found.

Conducted by the National Union of Students, the research suggests that more educated women are at greater risk of pregnancy than those who have little or no formal education. The national average for conceptions among younger females aged between 15 and 19 is lower than the rate discovered in the study, at one in 16.

"People assume that students who go into further education are more informed and understand more about contraception. This research debunks that myth," said Alison Hadley, a policy adviser for Brook Advisory Centre, a service for women under 25.

One in five students who attended further education colleges in England and Wales occasionally or often had sex without contraception, the study found. Ms Hadley said: "It is possible that more of these women will have chosen not to carry on the pregnancy because of their careers, so it is likely there are fewer single mothers among this group."

These findings come after recent government figures revealed that more women aged between 20 and 24 have abortions than any other age group.

Andrew Pakes, president of the NUS, said: "We recommend that students protect themselves against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections." Toni Belfield, of the Family Planning Association, said: "The point is not whether, where, how or with whom women should be having sex; it is about enabling women to make informed decisions."