bpas comment: ONS statistics on conceptions in England and Wales

Katherine O'Brien, Associate Director of Communications and Campaigns, said:

“Teenage conception rates have halved over the last decade alone and now stand at a record low. There is no doubt that improved access to contraception, particularly highly effective long-acting methods such as the contraceptive implant, has had a significant impact. Indeed, government data suggests that among women who are having sex and wanting to avoid pregnancy, young women aged 16-24 may be more likely to use contraception regularly than their older counterparts. This may be in part due to improvements in the information we are giving our young people. Bpas research has found that high quality relationship and sex education can influence young people’s sexual behaviours, so the government’s plan for mandatory RSE has the potential to further bring down teenage conception rates, but only if it is comprehensive and addresses the needs of young people today. 

“Aside from contraception and RSE, we believe that wider societal shifts are also being reflected in the downward trend. We know that young people today are very much focused on their education, determined to succeed in a challenging economic environment, and feel that having a child at this stage will be disruptive to their life goals.

“Far from the stereotype of groups of surly teenagers binge drinking down their local park, young people are consuming alcohol at much lower levels, enjoy spending significant amounts of time in the family home, and socialising with friends and partners online rather than face-to-face.  Evidence suggests that there is an association between excessive alcohol consumption, unplanned sex, and decreased contraceptive use, and certainly you are unlikely to conceive from spending a night on Snapchat in your family’s living room. Young people are making different choices about the way they live their lives and these changes will have a knock-on effect on teenage pregnancy rates.  

“The UK still has a comparatively high rate of teenage conceptions, and more can be done to reduce the numbers of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies among women of all ages. However, it is important to note that many teenage mothers provide a loving, caring home for their child, and every parent should be supported, regardless of their age. We can welcome the decline in unwanted teenage conceptions without stigmatising young people who make the decision to have a baby.”

ENDS

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Notes to Editors:

About bpas

bpas is a charity which sees more than 80,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org.