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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 00:47 GMT
Contraception fails UK youth
Campaigners are calling for better contraceptive advice for teenagers
Campaigners are calling for better contraceptive advice for teenagers
The UK has one of the highest rates for teenage pregnancies, despite having the second highest use of contraception.

A study comparing women's health services in different countries found 80% of women used contraception, second only to Italy.

But the UK has the 11th lowest risk rating in a table of countries launched by reproductive health agencies Population Concern and International Planned Parenthood (IPPF).

Now UK campaigners are calling for better reproductive health information, especially for teenagers.


Teenagers need more information and education about how to access contraception and how to use it

Family Planning Association spokeswoman
A World of Difference: Sexual Health and Risks, launched on Thursday to coincide with International Women's Day, examines conditions for women across the world.

According to the report, the risk of dying in childbirth is 33 times higher in developing countries than in industrialised countries.

Ethiopian women have the highest reproductive risk of the 133 countries studied.

The IPPF said it wanted to draw attention to the decision by President George W Bush to prevent foreign organisations which receive US funding from speaking on abortion and from providing abortion services.

It said the decision had slashed its budget, severely affecting its ability to fund projects, even if they had no link to abortion.

The UK figures in the report, compiled by US-based Population Action International showed 2.9 per 100 women aged between 15 and 19 gave birth, compared to 0.9 in France, 0.4 in Japan.

Eastern Europe and the US were worse, with America having 5.1 births per 100 teenagers.

Global comparisons

In developing countries, one in 65 women will die in childbirth. In western countries, the figure is one in 2,215.

Ninety-eight per cent of the 3.4m adults who die because they have poor reproductive health, including those who died from Aids, are from developing countries.

And every year, 70,000 women die from botched abortions.

Sandra Kabir, director of International Advocacy and Resources from Population Concern said there was a global concern about women's access to contraceptive services.

"There is insufficient money available to buy contraceptive supplies worldwide. There is a great demand, but less money available."

She added that the organisation was concerned about the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK, and the advice young people received about contraception, pregnancy and abortion.

"Information and education on sexual health is given in an inappropriate way. Young people need access to confidential services. They are not going to go to their GP. We need to go into schools and to places where they congregate."

She added that young women from deprived backgrounds needed "something to look forward to", so that they did not see having a baby, "someone to love and to love them", as their only option.

Teenage pregnancies

A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association (FPA) said the UK needed to address teenage pregnancy rates and said the rate of contraception use was a separate issue.

"While other countries in Europe have succeeded in bringing their pregnancy rates down, ours have remained high.

"There are complex reasons for this and it is not just about contraception, but teenagers do need more information and education about how to access contraception and how to use it."

She added that the kind of sex education that was available at the moment was patchy.

And she said old wives' tales were still believed by teenagers and adults.

"Teenagers still believe these myths that they cannot get pregnant the first time, or if they have sex standing up.

"One school nurse told me that a current playground story was that a girl couldn't get pregnant if she put a fizzy drink in her vagina after sex."

She added that nurses manning the FPA helpline also had to deal with adult women who were not sure if they had had sex.

And she said: "A high percentage of women go to their GPs for contraceptive advice, and not family planning clinics.

"But we know some health professionals are excellent and some are not.

Improvements had been made, she said, with the introduction of measures such as a teenage pregnancy co-ordinator for each health authority.

And she called for teenagers to have balanced advice about abortion.

Parents should also have more of a role in giving their children sex education, in addition to information schools provided, to prevent them picking up playground myths.

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24 Oct 00 | Health
Parents 'ignoring sex education'
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