Teenage pregnancy rates at all-time low

Labour’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy credited with drop in teenage conceptions

Teenage pregnancies in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest ever level, according to official statistics.

The estimated number of conceptions to girls under 18 stood at 27,834 in 2012, marking a decrease of 10% from the previous year.

This means the rate of conceptions for under-18s was 27.9 per thousand girls aged 15 to 17, the lowest since comparable records began in 1969.

The Office for National Statistics said the rate has fallen 41% since 1998, when it was 47.1 pregnancies per thousand girls.

Conceptions began to fall after the Labour party launched the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in 1999 amid growing concern at the extent of the problem.

Professor Kevin Fenton, health and wellbeing director at Public Health England, said teenage pregnancy and early motherhood can be associated with low educational achievement, poor health, isolation and poverty.

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Despite the progress, the rate is still high in comparison with the rest of Western Europe and significant regional differences remain.

Middlesborough had the highest rate in 2012 at 52 pregnancies per thousand girls, whereas Mole Valley in Surrey had the lowest rate at fewer than nine per thousand.

Around 75% of teenage pregnancies are unplanned and half end in abortion, according to government figures.

Alison Hadley, of the University of Bedfordshire, who led the decade-long Teenage Pregnancy Strategy’s implementation, said: “We’ve made huge progress, but need to sustain it and accelerate it in some areas.

“For births to under-18s we’re still about twice as high as France and three times the rate in Germany.

“It’s not about stigmatising teenage parents but about helping people make positive choices about sex, using contraception and planning pregnancies.”

She expressed concern that youth services were being “hardest hit” by local budget cuts because they offer a “safety net” in making contact with hard-to-reach teens, especially boys.