Teenage pregnancy rates at their lowest since records began

PUBLISHED: 17:28 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:28 29 March 2018

File photo of a woman holding her stomach, eight months into her pregnancy. Photo: Katie Collins/PA Wire

File photo of a woman holding her stomach, eight months into her pregnancy. Photo: Katie Collins/PA Wire

Teenage pregnancy rates in the east of England are at the lowest they have been since records began, new figures have revealed.

Data from the Office for National Statistics released this week showed a dramatic drop between 1969 and now, with a 55pc decrease since 1998.

In Norfolk, conception rates for women aged 15 to 17 were 20.9 per 1,000 for 2016 - down from 37 per 1,000 in 1998.

In some individual areas such as north, south, and west Norfolk, and Great Yarmouth, rates had risen slightly year on year.

But overall there were 10 fewer conceptions between 2015 and 2016 (206 fewer than 1998).

While charities have welcomed the results, they urged caution and warned cuts to public health budgets could turn the tide.

Natika H Halil, chief executive of the sexual health charity FPA, said: “This dramatic fall in teenage pregnancy rates in the east of England is thanks to a great deal of hard work from health and education professionals, along with the investment in services that we saw during the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy that ended in 2010.

“That’s why it’s so concerning that local authorities are facing such massive cuts to their public health budget, which can then lead to sexual health services closing, or have their staff and funding reduced. These cuts could mean that we see teenage pregnancy rates start to rise again in the coming years.”

Analysis by the Advisory Group on Contraception last year showed Norfolk County Council was one of 52 local authorities to make cuts to sexual health services in 2016/17.

Through a Freedom of Information request they found two sites which provided contraception services had been closed.

And spending figures showed since between 2014/15 and 2016/17 spending on contraception services fell from £4,190,000 to £2,548,000.

Over the same period spending on advice, prevention, and promotion fell from £1,206,000 to £738,000.

But Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council, said the council had spent £6.91m on commissioning sexual health services this year.

She said: “It’s good news that the overall numbers of teenage pregnancy are reducing. We’re not complacent, though, which is why it remains a core part of our local strategy despite the government no longer funding it nor mandating it.”

She added the amount spent on contraception services did not necessarily influence teenage pregnancy because other factors could be more important, such as education in schools and family.

She said: “In Norfolk sexual health and contraception services can be accessed extensively across the county. This includes at our three integrated clinics at King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Norwich, at GPs who provide contraception services and at community pharmacists who can provide advice and the morning after pill.

“And working with our service provider Cambridge Community Services NHS Trust, we have developed new ways for people to access our services including online testing. The Terrence Higgins Trust also deliver the C-Card Scheme.”

• For more information on sexual health and contraception, click here.

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