Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Teenage pregnancy rate falls

Two young parents on the problems of teen pregnancy

The number of teenage pregnancies in England and Wales has fallen by 4%, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A total of 41,325 women under 18 fell pregnant in 2008, down 3.9% from 42,988 in 2007, the figures show.

Of these young women 49% had an abortion, compared with 50% in 2007.

The government had pledged in 1999 to halve teenage pregnancy rates among under-18s in England by this year but is widely expected to miss that target.

The ONS data shows for every 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 17 in England and Wales, there were just over 40 pregnancies.

The North East had the highest under-18 conception rate in 2008, with 49 per 1,000 women age 15-17 falling pregnant.

The East of England had the lowest rate with 31.4 per 1,000 young women getting pregnant.

The number of girls aged 13 to 15 getting pregnant fell by 6% in 2008, with 7.8 conceptions per 1,000 girls compared with 8.3 in 2007.

Since 2002 the number of teenage girls falling pregnant in England and Wales has been steadily falling, despite a slight rise in 2007.

The ONS statistics show there were an estimated 887,800 conceptions among women of all age groups in England and Wales in 2008, a decrease of 0.9% on the 2007 figure of 895,900.

Conception rates in England and Wales

Conception rates decreased in all age groups between 2007 and 2008, with the exception of women aged 40 and above, where conceptions remained at 12.6 per 1,000 women.

While conception rates in the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups fell slightly in 2008, they have risen steadily over the past 10 years.

The number of conceptions outside marriage in England and Wales increased slightly from 56% in 2007 to 57% in 2008.

The number of conceptions outside of marriage which resulted in the birth of a child was 67%, compared with 93% of conceptions inside marriage.

The proportion of all conceptions resulting in a birth was 78%.

The ONS figures for conceptions cover those that result in a live or still birth or are terminated by abortion; they do not include miscarriages or illegal abortions.

Government target

Although the number of teenage pregnancies in England and Wales fell in 2008, the government is highly unlikely to meet its 1999 pledge to halve teenage pregnancies in England by 2010.

teenage mum
Teenage mother Leah says the sleepless nights are tough

Figures from the Department of Children, Schools and Families show rates in England are down by just 13.3% from 1999 to 2008.

The government allocated £260m to reducing teenage pregnancy and, in 2009, ministers announced an extra £20.5m funding package for contraception resources.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls defended ministers' record and said the statistics showed the rate of teenage pregnancies was now the lowest it had been for well over a decade.

But Mr Balls conceded it was going to be "really hard" to achieve the pledged "ambitious target" of a 50% decline on 1998 figures by 2010.

Mr Balls also defended legislation passed on Tuesday night that will mean faith schools have to teach sex education.

But an amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill will mean these schools will be allowed to teach personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons "in a way that reflects the school's religious character".

'Living hell'

Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo welcomed the ONS figures, saying teenage pregnancy was no longer a rising problem.

"Last year's increase was very disappointing so I am particularly pleased that today's statistics put us back on track," she said.

Gill Frances, chairwoman of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, said it also welcomed the teenage pregnancy strategy being back on its long term downward trend.

"Nationally, statutory Sex and Relationships Education will give an extra benefit and government must also ensure all young people have access to contraceptive and sexual health services," she said.

Simon Blake, national director of the sex and relationships advisory group Brook said: "It is good news that the teenage pregnancy rates have decreased and we now need to continue doing what we know works - improving access to sexual health services, good quality sex and relationships education in school and the community and supporting parents to talk to their children about relationships."

Teenage mother Emma told the BBC said she found it difficult to cope in the early weeks.

"It's so demanding, so draining, you can get told what it's like but until you've actually lived through it, it's like a living hell," she said.

Teenage mother Leah said the sleepless nights involved with looking after a baby were very hard.

"But you get used to it, you get the hang of it eventually," she said.

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