Teenage pregnancy rate falls for 10th year

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 15 April 2019

The number of teenage pregnancies in England and Wales has fallen for the 10th year in a row, according to the latest government statistics.

Teenage pregnancy rates are down for the 10th year running. Picture: emiliau/Adobe Stock

There were 16,740 conceptions to women aged under 18 years in 2017, compared with 18,086 in 2016 - a 7.4 per cent decrease.

This is a 61.1 per cent decrease on figures 10 years ago, when 42,988 conceptions were recorded.

The conception rate per 1,000 women under 18 has also fallen by 57 per cent since 2007 to 17.9 in 2017.

And among girls aged under 16, the number of estimated conceptions fell more sharply from 2,821 in 2016 to 2,517 in 2017 - a decrease of 10.8 per cent. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which estimated the rates based on numbers of recorded maternities and abortions, suggested a combination of education and public health policies had prompted the decline.

Relationships and sex education has grown in prominence over recent years, with the government announcing in 2017 that relationships education for primary schools and relationships and sex education for secondary schools would become statutory in 2020.

Kathryn Littleboy, vital statistics outputs spokeswoman for ONS, said "improved sex and relationship education, better access to contraceptives and increased participation in higher education" all had a role to play.

However, Alison Hadley, teenage pregnancy adviser to Public Health England and director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange at the University of Bedfordshire warned against complacency.

"Outcomes for young parents and their children remain disproportionately poor, with notably higher rates of poor maternal mental health, low birth weight and infant mortality," said Hadley. 

Effective implementation of statutory relationships and sex education in all schools in 2020 will be "key for sustaining progress in the long term", she added.

 

Alison Hadley, teenage pregnancy advisor to Public Health England, describes the multi-agency factors behind reducing teenage pregnancy

However, this would only be possible with proper funding for effective teenage pregnancy programmes, including youth-friendly contraceptive services, targeted help for young people most at risk and high-quality support for young parents. 

She continued: "Significant reductions in inequalities will also depend on tackling the wider determinants of early pregnancy and poor outcomes - notably family poverty and school exclusion and poor attainment."

In October 2018, research by the Health Foundation showed the impact of cuts to government public health grants meant local areas required an additional £3.2bn of investment a year.

The ONS statistics also show that in 2017, 60.7 per cent of conceptions among girls aged under 16 ended in abortion.

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