Teenage pregnancies have dropped to the lowest level ever since 1969 across England and Wales, new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data has revealed.
School nursing has focused on sexual health and education of young people for many years. This combined with young women staying in school for longer and improved access to contraception has helped the positive trend.
Between 2007 and 2015, the pregnancy rate among under-18s dropped to just 21 per 1,000.
Education and prevention
Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (CLCH), which provides school nursing services across London, spoke to Nursing in Practice about the ‘important role’ school nurses play in giving young people the opportunity to learn about healthy relationships.
Some school nurses from the Trust run drop in sessions in schools where they signpost young people to contraception services, offer advice and guidance, and provide a confidential place for young people to discuss their concerns.
In many of the boroughs covered by the team, they offer personal, health & social education (PHSE) lessons in primary schools to children aged 10 and 11, where they discuss puberty, reproduction and relationships before they start secondary school. this helps children to become ‘well informed before they become teenagers’.
Teen pregnancy figures
‘Sex and relationship education is an extremely important part of young people’s health and well-being,’ CLCH said.
‘It’s promising that the figures are declining but doesn’t change our commitment to ensuring that the right support is available.’
‘Teenagers will engage in risky behaviours, which has been perpetuated by online activity therefore PHSE & SRE [sex and relationship] education needs to remain a priority appropriate to the stage of a young person’s development.
‘Services need to be sustained so that school nurses can continue to deliver to support schools with their PHSE and SRE curriculum.’
The ONS data revealed that the areas with the highest conception rates among under-18s were Blackpool and Burnley.
Overall, teenage conception rates in 2015 in England and Wales were the lowest recorded since statistics were first produced in 1969.
Later in life pregnancies
Nurses working in practices and community settings should also be aware of the growing trend of women becoming pregnant at older ages.
Women over 40 have had the biggest rise in conceptions, the ONS figures showed. Since 1990, their rate has more than doubled to 15.1 per 1,000 women.
The number of women deciding to have a baby in their late 30s has increased by similarly high levels, but the most popular age to become pregnant is still between the ages of 25 and 29 in England and Wales.
However, there has been a significant rise in pregnancies of 30 to 34-year-olds. In 2015, there were 125 conceptions per 1,000 women in their early 30s compared to 127 among women in their late 20s.