Call for action as Hartlepool has second highest under 18 conception rate in country

Teenage pregnancies rising in Hartlepool. Picture PA Archive/PA Images
Teenage pregnancies rising in Hartlepool. Picture PA Archive/PA Images

Councillors have called for more to be done to help prevent teenage pregnancies after Hartlepool was found to have one of the highest conception rates in the country.

A health report presented to Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee stated the town’s under 18 conception rate is the second highest in England.

Councillors said more needs to be done to help combat the issue and not enough progress has been made in recent years.

Coun Jim Lindridge said: “In the early 1990s I did a dissertation about how Hartlepool had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, and honestly I don’t think that’s improved.

“Personally I don’t think we are doing enough about it.

“There’s not enough education, we need education. Sometimes morals are not right, we need to look at what the answer is.

“We need to be having that initial point of contact in every school. Kids need the option to see a school nurse, then they could see friends going and do the same thing.

“It’s an educational situation.”

The report showed how the area was fairing in line with Public Health England’s national framework.

Hartlepool had experienced a declining trend in under 18 conceptions for nine years from 2006 to 2014 in line with the national average.

However, in the following two years Hartlepool has seen a marked increase in its under 18 conception rate, increasing back up to levels not seen since 2012.

Meanwhile across England the rate has continued to decline.

Dr Peter Brambleby, interim director of public health, noted a smaller population in comparison with other areas meant sometimes trends could change quickly in Hartlepool.

However, he said several steps need to be taken to work with young people to improve the rate of teenage pregnancies in the area.

He said: “There’s the importance of raising teenager’s self-esteem and self-respect and giving them the confidence to say no until they are ready.

“The next thing we then need to focus on is making sure there is the available contraception and raising awareness of this, at the end of the day, sex will happen.

“There are initiatives such as the C-card scheme giving access to condoms and young people also need to have that access to the morning after pill.

“We don’t want it to get to a point where pregnancies happen and there is a termination.

“We need to be really careful not to get into victim blaming.

“It’s not just about pregnancies, people can catch some fairly nasty diseases from unprotected sex.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service