Teenage pregnancy rates hit all-time low after nearly halving in last eight years

Health charities welcome drop but warn cuts to contraception services could reverse trend

Katie Forster
Wednesday 22 March 2017 14:20 GMT
Pregnant (WestEnd61/REX)

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Teenage pregnancy rates in England and Wales have almost halved in the last eight years, plummeting to the lowest level since records began.

In 2015, there were 20,351 conceptions in girls under 18, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – down 10 per cent from the previous year.

There were 21 pregnancies among every 1,000 girls under 18 in 2015, just under half the 2007 rate of 41.6 per 1,000.

Reasons given for the drop include better sex education, improved access to contraception, a shift in aspirations towards education and increased stigma towards teenage mothers.

When comparable records began in 1969 there were 45,495 conceptions in girls under 18, a rate of 47.1 pregnancies per 1,000 girls under 18.

Chief executive of the Family Planning Association Natika Halil welcomed the continued drop in teenage pregnancy rates, but warned cuts to contraception services could reverse the trend.

“This reduction is thanks to the hard work of health and education professionals, and the legacy of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy – a key component of which was improving access to contraception," she said.

“However, recent dramatic cuts to contraception services could see this improvement reverse. The UK Government has cut public health budgets by a whopping £800m over six years."

Sex education to be made compulsory in all schools in England

She added: "Research by the Advisory Group on Contraception has found that in 2015–2016, more than one in six local authorities decreased their spending on contraception services as a result of this public health cut."

The areas with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in England and Wales included Blackpool, Burnley and Kingston upon Hull.

The Government announced that sex education was been made compulsory in UK secondary schools earlier this month, with faith schools allowed to teach about healthy adult relationships "in accordance with the tenets of their faith".

The ONS data showed across all age groups the number of conceptions had risen slightly.

In 2015, the estimated number of conceptions in England and Wales rose by 0.7 per cent to 876,934, from 871,038 the year before.

The figures also show that most babies are conceived out of wedlock.

The ONS said there has been a long-term rise in the percentage of pregnancies occurring outside marriage or civil partnership, reaching 57 per cent in 2015 in England and Wales.

During 2015, 69 per cent of conceptions outside marriage or civil partnership resulted “in a maternity”, compared with 92 per cent of conceptions within marriage or civil partnership.

ONS statistician Nicola Haines said: “Under 18 conception rates have declined by 55 per cent since 1998, whilst for women aged 30 and over, conception rates have increased by 34 per cent.”

Additional reporting from Press Association

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