Teenage pregnancy rate drops 7.3%
The teenage pregnancy rate in England and Wales has reached its lowest level since 1969.
The under-18 conception rate in 2010 was 35.5 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17, compared with 38.3 in 2009 (a 7.3% drop), according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. In 2010, there were 34,633 pregnancies among under-18s in England and Wales, down on the 38,259 in 2009.
The percentage of pregnancies leading to abortion among under-18s stood at 49.9%, up on the 48.8% the year before. There were 6,674 pregnancies among under-16s in 2010, including 1,552 among 14-year-olds and 305 among under-14s - all down slightly on the previous year.
The data also showed that most babies are now conceived outside of marriage, with 57.1% of all conceptions outside of a marriage or civil partnership. In 2010, there were 519,163 such pregnancies, of which 30.9% led to abortion. Within a marriage or civil partnership, there were 390,082 pregnancies, of which 7.5% led to abortion.
Overall, the number of pregnancies across England and Wales is rising. In 2010, there were 909,245 conceptions compared with 896,466 in 2009, an increase of 1.4%. Conception rates increased in all age groups, with the exception of women aged under 20.
The ONS said the rise could be down to more women over 30 falling pregnant "or possibly due to the economic climate following the 2008-2009 recession".
It added: "Family may also be valued more highly during tough economic times and, as parents could be out of work, they may have more time to spend on child rearing. Others may delay having a family due to financial concerns caused by the recession."
The largest rise in conception rates occurred among women aged 40 and over (rising 5.2% in one year), those aged 30 to 34 (4.9% rise) and those aged 35 to 39 (4.5% rise). Among the over-40s, the conception rate has now more than doubled since 1990 to 12.8 per 1,000 women. The number of women in this age group conceiving has risen from 26,792 in 2009 to 27,919 in 2010.
Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: "We all want to see fewer teenage pregnancies, but you'll do it by improving sex education, not ludicrous schemes around abstinence, as these figures show. The danger is that this Government's disastrous NHS policies will cause the fragmentation of sexual health services, and the progress that has been made will start to go backwards."
Jacque Gerrard, Royal College of Midwives director for England, said: "The fall in teenage pregnancies is very welcome and testament to the hard work of the specialist midwives working with teen mothers and family nurse partnership teams and midwives. However, the birth rate keeps going up and this trend is projected to continue, yet we are not seeing midwife numbers keep pace."