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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 14:17 GMT
Sharp rise in teenage Pill users
Pregnant woman
A quarter of women aged 16 to 49 rely on the pill to prevent pregnancy
Almost one in four of all teenage girls aged 16 and 17 in Britain takes the contraceptive pill, figures suggest.

The proportion has risen from 17% to 24% in four years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Campaigners for contraception and sexual health have welcomed the results of Living in Britain, a report on the 2002 General Household Survey.

The study also looks at other aspects of daily life including smoking, drinking and consumer goods like cars.

It shows women have confidence in the Pill and are happy using it
Melissa Dear,
Family Planning Association

The survey - which compared figures in 1998/9 with those in 2002/3 - indicates just over a quarter of all women use the contraceptive pill, with the biggest increase in the 16 to 17 age bracket.

The proportion of 30 to 34 year olds and women aged 45 to 49 taking the Pill has also grown, it says.

Overall, researchers found 19% of women aged 16 to 49 had partners who preferred to use a condom.

Among teenagers aged 16 and 17, condom use by partners rose from 18% to 23% in the four years from 1999 to 2003.

The report says one in seven of all women between 16 and 49 uses at least one method of contraception, a figure which has remained fairly constant since 1986.

Family Planning Association spokeswoman Melissa Dear said: "It's very positive news.

"It shows women have confidence in the Pill and are happy using it.

"I think the rise in use in women at both ends of the spectrum shows that the message that the Pill is safe for women of any age is getting through."

She said she hoped the figures would dispel the "doom and gloom" surrounding teenage pregnancy rates - a figure which she said had declined by 9.4% in under-18s since 1998.

Sterilisation rise

"It's particularly encouraging to see that women are taking condoms seriously and using them too," she said.

"Considering the rise in sexually transmitted infections, it means condom use is particularly important."

Ms Dear said the increase in contraceptive use among teenagers was probably a result of improved sex education and access to services for young people.

The number of women aged 45 to 49 choosing sterilisation of one or both partners as a contraceptive method showed a big rise, from 35% in 1986 to 44% in 2002.

But the proportion of younger women, aged 25 to 39, opting for sterilisation has fallen, the report suggests.

The percentage of women aged 16 to 49 who had taken the "morning after pill" once during the last year was 5% - a small decrease on the year before.

A spokeswoman for Marie Stopes International said: "We welcome these statistics but there is still a lot of work to be done to encourage young people to use reliable contraceptive methods."

The survey was compiled after the Office for National Statistics questioned people aged 16 and over from more than 8,500 households to gather a picture of households, families and individuals living in Britain.

The BBC's James Westhead
"Young people are being more careful about contraception"

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