Teenage pregnancy rates heading down

HEALTH chiefs say they are confident the high number of teenage pregnancies will continue to fall.

New figures reveal that the rate for under-18 conception rates in Hartlepool in 2009 was 57.3 per 1,000 women, compared to 38.2 for the UK and 46.9 for the North-East.

The town’s rate was a 24.2 per cent improvement from the 1998 high of 75.6 and the number of teenage live births and abortions has reduced every year since 2005.

Despite the town still being well above both the national and regional average, heath chiefs are confident they have turned the corner.

Members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum were given an update on the work being done surrounding teenage pregnancy rates in town at a recent meeting.

Deborah Gibbin, teenage pregnancy co-ordinator for NHS Hartlepool, said: “It needs a long-term cultural shift and I think we are seeing that change in this town as there has been a reduction in live births and abortions.

“Hopefully there will be a further reduction in 2011 and we are going in the right direction, which is nice to see.”

She added that it wasn’t as simple as going into schools and educating youngsters but it was about tackling a variety of underlying factors such as inequality, deprivation and unemployment.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons said the latest figures were “encouraging” while Labour councillor Marjorie James wanted more information about the number of teenagers, who have already had an abortion, that then go on to have a baby in order to target support.

In 2005, the number of live births was 106 and the number of abortions was 68. But that has reduced to 61 live births last year and 35 abortions.

Both have seen a gradual reduction over the past five years.

Numerous initiatives are under way to keep tackling the problem, including improved access to contraception and sexual health services and free emergency contraception available from community pharmacies, targeted support and a confidential advice service.

There is also both one-to-one and group support available for young parents to help cut rates of second pregnancies.

■ Any teenagers wanting advice on preventing pregnancy should call Ms Gibbin on (01429) 284372, or the Teenage Pregnancy Support Service on 07818 065972.