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Teenage pregnancy rate falls but is still a worry

Teenage pregnancy rates are falling locally
Teenage pregnancy rates are falling locally
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Teenage pregnancy rates in Wigan borough have fallen in recent years - but still remain above the national average.

New figures released by the Office Of National Statistics show fewer girls aged 15 to 17 are becoming pregnant.

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There were 121 conceptions in the borough in 2016 - the latest figures available - which accounts for 23.1 conceptions per 1,000 women.

It was a drop from 129 pregnancies in 2015 (24.8 per 1,000) and has more than halved since 1998, when there were 297 pregnancies in Wigan (53.6 per 1,000).

But more girls in the borough are becoming pregnant than elsewhere.

The rate for both Greater Manchester and the North West in 2016 was 22.9 per 1,000, while for England it was just 18.8.

Prof Kate Ardern, director for public health at Wigan Council, said: “In the past, teenage pregnancies in the borough have been among the highest in England so it’s encouraging to see these numbers decline.

“We have recently transformed our sexual health services and now have excellent provision in place to support young people. The service, run by Spectrum Community Health CIC, is more accessible and community-led meaning young people can get support when it is convenient for them.

“There are a number of exciting developments to come including working more closely with our schools and school nurses through our Start Well offer as well as developing nurse led clinics across the borough. These developments will complement our current work and continue to reduce future teenage pregnancy rates.”

Teenage pregnancy rates were at the lowest in the North West since records began in 1969, but the region still had the second highest rates in the country.

In the region, Hyndburn had the highest rate at 36.7 per 1,000, while Trafford was the lowest at 9.9.

National sexual health charity FPA has raised concerns that these differences could widen even further as a result of cuts to sexual health services.

They fear the continued fall in teenage pregnancy rates – the legacy of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which ended in 2010 – could reverse due to the cuts.

Chief executive Natika H Halil said: “This dramatic fall in teenage pregnancy rates in the North West 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 North West 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.”