Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics show that, in 2016, teenage pregnancy rates in the South East were the lowest since records began in 1969.
Conception rates for women aged 15 to 17 in the South East were 15 per 1,000 – a 12% fall since 2015, and a 60% drop since 1998.
Aylesbury vale had a conception rate of 13%, with 13 conceptions per 1,000.
Southampton had the highest rate, at 31.7 per 1,000, followed by Thanet (26.9) and Swale (26.5).
In contrast, Wokingham only had a rate of 8.1 per 1,000.
National sexual health charity FPA has raised concerns that these inequalities between different areas could widen even further as a result of cuts to sexual health services. And that the continued fall in teenage pregnancy rates – the legacy of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which ended in 2010 – could reverse thanks to the cuts.
Natika H Halil, Chief Executive of the sexual health charity FPA, said:
“This dramatic fall in teenage pregnancy rates in the South East 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 in the South East 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.
“It’s also concerning to see large variations in teenage pregnancy rates between different areas. Teenage pregnancy can be a result of many different factors, including deprivation, but we know it can be reduced by investing the right time, resources and expertise into services and education. This investment not only saves money in the long term, but also helps prevent the range of negative long-term educational, health and social outcomes that young parents and their children are more likely to experience.
“But it’s also important to remember that whether or not young people are sexually active, or choose to become parents, they should never face stigma or judgement. Pregnancy and parenthood can be a positive life choice for young people, and young parents deserve to get the support they need to make informed choices about their lives. This is support that only properly-funded services, alongside high-quality relationships and sex education, can provide.”