Are teenage pregnancies rising?

Teenage pregnancy rates among young women vary widely. The Netherlands, Slovenia and Switzerland have the lowest rates of teenage births (below 5 per 1,000) while figures in Romania, the UK and the US are higher (above 29 per 1,000)[292]. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy suggests a number of reasons for sexual initiation (and as a consequence, pregnancy) including curiosity, opportunity, real or imagined peer pressure, the wish not to be left behind, being in a relationship, fear of losing a boy or girlfriend, the need to be loved or the belief that sex equals love, and media influences that glamorize sex, and alcohol[293].

Reducing teenage pregnancy has been a major Public Health priority in the UK since 1997. It is reported to present a cost to the NHS and beyond and lead to a number of poor physical and social outcomes such as social deprivation, low breast feeding rates, and mental ill-health. Groups who are more vulnerable to becoming teenage parents include young people who are in or leaving care, homeless, underachieving at school, children of teenage parents, members of some ethnic groups, involved in crime, and/or living in areas with higher social deprivation[294].

Between 1998 and 2008, the teenage conception rate in England and Wales fell by 13.3% for under 18s, although rates still remain similar to those in the 1950s and 60s. Some critics have argued against the validity of making national comparisons and have disputed whether teenage pregnancy is a problem, challenging the belief that it a health problem or produces poorer outcomes for young parents and children [295] . It has been argued that evidence indicating poor outcomes for teenage parents is selective and fails to report positive outcomes such as protection from diabetes and breast cancer, together with better obstetric outcomes[296].

These tangible health outcomes are complemented by the positive experiences of young parenthood found among many teenage parents and challenge the pessimistic account provided in policy making[297] which has been described as demonizing young motherhood[298].

Are STIs rising among young people?

292. Ranging from about a rate of 12 per 1000 women aged 15-19 in Italy to about 59 in Bulgaria. WHO (2009) A snapshot of the health of young people in Europe,
293. SEU (1999) The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. Social Exclusion Unit. HMSO.
294. SEU (1999). The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. Social Exclusion Unit. HMSO.
295. Arai, L. (2000). British policy on teenage pregnancy and childbearing; the limitations of comparisons with other European countries. Critical Social Policy, 23, 89-102; Arai, L. (2003). Low expectations, sexual attitudes and knowledge: explaining teenage pregnancy and fertility in English communities. Insights from qualitative research. Sociological Review, 51, 199-217; Arai, L. (2009). Teenage pregnancy: the making and unmaking of a problem. Bristol, Polity Press; Duncan, S. (2007). What’s the problem with teenage parents? And what’s the problem with policy. Critical Social Policy, 27, 307-334; Seamark, C. J. & Lings, P. (2004). Positive experiences of teenage motherhood: a qualitative study. The British Journal of General Practice, 54(508), 813-818; Lawlor, D. A, & Shaw, M. (2002). Too much too young? Teenage pregnancy is not a public health problem. International journal of Epidemiology, 31(3), 552-553.
296. Quinlivan, J. A., Tan, L. H., Steele, A. & Black, K. (2004). Impact of demographic factors, early family relationships and depressive symptomatology in teenage pregnancy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38(4), 197-203; Bingley, P. J., Douek, I. F., Rogers, C. A. & Gale, E. A. (2000). Influence of maternal age at delivery and birth order on risk of type 1 diabetes in childhood: prospective population based family study. British Medical Journal, 321(7258), 420-424; McPherson, K., Steel, C. & Dixon, J. M. (2000). ABC of breast diseases: breast cancer – epidemiology, risk factors, and genetics. British Medical Journal, 321(7261), 624-8.
297. Macvarish, J. (2010). The effect of ‘risk-thinking’ on the contemporary construction of teenage motherhood. Health, risk & society, 12(4), 313-322.
298. Duncan, S. (2007) What’s the problem with teenage parents? And what’s the problem with policy. Critical Social Policy, 27, 307-334.

Are STIs rising among young people?