TEENAGE pregnancy rates have fallen by more than a third in Scotland in recent years after being the worst in western Europe but girls from the poorest areas are around five times more likely to become young mothers.
Across Scotland, 3,462 teenage girls aged 19 and under gave birth in 2013 while a further 2,345 terminated a pregnancy – giving an overall teenage pregnancy rate of 37.7 per 1,000. This is a drop of almost 35 per cent from 2007.
Official figures revealed 1,507 girls under 20 in the poorest communities had a baby in 2013 compared to just 131 in the most affluent areas. The stark contrast was hailed as “concerning” by Labour’s health spokesperson Jenny Marra, who called for greater equality for young women.
Ministers launched a public consultation yesterday on their draft National Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy, to combat the cycle of deprivation by looking a wider issues around sexual health and relationships.
The new strategy – the first of its kind for Scotland – also suggested creating a national tsar on teenage pregnancy, who will co-ordinate policy through different agencies and health boards.
Public health minister Maureen Watt said: “I am pleased to see the rate of teenage pregnancy has continued to fall for the sixth year, which is very encouraging alongside recent reductions in terminations of pregnancy.
“Reducing levels of pregnancy in young people will help to increase the choices, opportunities and wellbeing available to them throughout their lives.”
Dundee, which comes under NHS Tayside, relinquished its dubious title of teen pregnancy capital of Scotland as NHS Borders reported the highest numbers of pregnant under-16s, and NHS Fife had the highest rates in under-18s and under-20s.
Teen pregnancy rates in Dundee have fallen by nearly 50 per cent since their highest point in 2007, and there were 75 teenage mothers younger than 16 in 2013, which is the lowest figure since records began.
Ann Eriksen, NHS Tayside’s head of Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus, said: “This reduction is due to the huge range of programmes that we have put in place in partnership with our local authority and third-sector colleagues that work with young people to support them to make informed decisions about their sexual health and enable them to access friendly advice and services.
“We carried out extensive research with young women at risk of teenage pregnancy and young parents to gain a better understanding of their experiences and insights.”
Peer education, easier access to contraception and the introduction of sexual health advice app NeedTayKnow have all contributed to the reduced teen pregnancy rate, she added.
Harry Walker, policy manager at sexual health charity the Family Planning Association (FPA), said the figures were now in line with England and Wales but more needed to be done to bring the UK as a whole in line with other European countries.
He said: “While the overall figure is progress, the regional variations and continued link between teenage pregnancy and levels of deprivation must be addressed. This is a trend which is reflected elsewhere in the UK, and can only be combated through focused efforts to meet the needs of young people.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s strategy to build on the progress that has been seen in recent years, and particularly the emphasis on education being crucial.”
Jenny Marra, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, said: ““The persistent trend that girls in the most deprived communities have the highest levels of pregnancies is still concerning.”