The Office for National Statistics has released the latest conception statistics for England and Wales today. Just in case you don't read about it on the front page of a newspaper, or see a lengthy news item, here is one of the key findings:
The under 18 conception rate for 2011 is the lowest since 1969.
The estimated number of conceptions to women aged under 18 also fell to 31,051 in 2011 compared with 34,633 in 2010, a decrease of 10%.
And in fact;
This is the lowest estimated under 18 conception rate since comparable conception statistics were first produced in 1969.
Hear that everyone? The rate of teenage pregnancy has gone down. It’s at its lowest since the statistics were first collected in 1969 (the year of the moon landing!) In these 2011 statistics we see the legacy of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, the efforts of education, sexual health and youth work professionals across the country tirelessly working to help young men and women prevent unwanted pregnancies, whilst supporting those who do become pregnant (purposefully or not).
Reflecting back on the successes of the strategy in 2010 the Department of Health stated that the international evidence-base shows two measures which have the strongest impact on reducing teenage pregnancy rates:
Comprehensive information, advice and support – from parents, schools and other professionals – combined with accessible, young people-friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
However, despite this knowledge about what works best, we continue to see a lack of commitment to the implementation of statutory Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), and a worrying trend of cuts to contraception and sexual health services. At EFC we have noted an increasing backlash against the provision of inclusive, evidence-based sex education, some of which is recorded in our recent report into education about abortion.
We were therefore glad to see a recent cross-party inquiry back the findings and successes of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and make demands for compulsory SRE in the battle against unwanted teenage pregnancies. We just hope that any future policies manage to promote evidence-based information on contraception and pregnancy prevention without shaming young mothers or stigmatising the choice of abortion. There are tried and tested measures we can put in place to help reduce the number of young women becoming pregnant when they do not want to be, however, there will always be some young people who do become pregnant. Let's not treat them like a pesky statistic. They deserve respect, accurate and impartial information and time and space to make a decision about the pregnancy that is right for them.