New figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of teenage pregnancies in North Yorkshire is the lowest it has been has been since record-keeping began.
Nationally, the conception rate for young women aged 15 to 17 has been halved since 1998 and is now the lowest it has been since record-keeping began in the late 1960s. In North Yorkshire there has been an overall 54.4% reduction in under -18 conception rates, compared to a national reduction of 51.1%. This equates to 175 teenage pregnancies in 2014.
All areas in the county are continuing to experience a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates, ranging from -61.2% in Harrogate to -23.6% in Ryedale. Scarborough continues to have slightly higher rates than the national average but has come down by 59.4% from 61.3 under 18 conceptions per 1,000 females aged 15-17 in 1998 to 24.9 per 1,000 females in 2014.
Reducing teenage pregnancy rates is an important part in protecting the health and wellbeing of young people: teenage mothers are at higher risk of missing out on further education – a fifth of young women aged 16 to 18 who are not in education, employment or training are teenage mothers. Young fathers are also more likely to have had a poor education and have a greater risk of being unemployed in adult life.
Mothers under 20 also experience higher rates of poor mental health for up to three years after the birth. Their children can be affected too. They have a 25 per cent higher risk of a low birth weight, 44 per cent higher risk of infant mortality and 63 per cent higher risk of experiencing child poverty.
“This continued reduction in the number teenage pregnancies is very good news and reflects the work North Yorkshire County Council is doing to ensure our young people get the education, help and support they need to make informed decisions about contraception and relationships” said County Councillor David Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities and Public Health.
“Evidence shows that high quality sex education, welcoming health services, in the right place, open at the right time, and with friendly non-judgmental staff, help young people to delay sex until they are ready and to use contraception effectively”.
Initiatives being undertaken by the County Council to maintain a decline in the rate of teenage pregnancies include:
- workforce training programmes so staff feel confident in talking to young people about sexual health and relationships including delaying early sex and supporting them to access services if needed;
- additional support for schools in areas of high teenage pregnancy rates to make improvements to their Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) curriculum.
- ensuring young people can access free and confidential sexual health services across North Yorkshire. Anyone wanting information can visit https://www.yorsexualhealth.org.uk/
“Good progress has been made in reducing teenage pregnancy across North Yorkshire, but we can’t afford to be complacent”, added Cllr Chance. “An action plan is being developed to ensure that all agencies work together to reduce teenage pregnancy even further in the county.
“And for teenagers who do become pregnant, we are developing a package of services and support to improve outcomes for themselves and their children with our partner organisations.
Although the numbers getting pregnant has dropped, the percentage of teenage pregnancies ending in abortion has increased in Craven and Selby, which highlights our need to continue to provide good information and services for young people”.