Teenage pregnancy factsheet

Last updated August 2010

This factsheet covers government policy and key statistics on teenage pregnancy in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (United Kingdom/UK). Please note that the data for each country may not be strictly comparable due to differences in methods of data collection and analysis.

  • The UK has the highest teenage birth and abortion rates in Western Europe(1,2).
  • Rates of teenage births are five times those in the Netherlands, double those in France and more than twice those in Germany(2).
  • In 2006 the teenage pregnancy rate in the USA increased for the first time in 10 years to 71.5 per 1,000 15–19 year olds. Around a third of these ended in abortion(3).
  • Groups who are more vulnerable to becoming teenage parents include young people who are: in or leaving care, homeless, underachieving at school, children of teenage parents, members of some ethnic groups, involved in crime, living in areas with higher social deprivation(4)
  • Young women living in socially disadvantaged areas are less likely to opt for an abortion if they get pregnant(5)

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Contents

England

  • Following a report from the Social Exclusion Unit in 1998, the Teenage Pregnancy Unit was set up and a ten-year strategy and action plan was implemented(6).
  • The target was to halve the under-18 conception rate by 2010 (from 46.6 per 1,000 in 1998) and to bring about a decline in the rate of conceptions to under-16s.
  • The aim was also to increase the participation of teenage parents in education, employment or training to reduce their longterm risk of social exclusion.
  • Further guidance aimed to support more effective local implementation of the strategy(7,8) and in 2010 the Government reviewed the achievements and set out further proposals (9).
  • Between 1998 and 2008 the teenage conception rate fell by 13.3 per cent in under-18s and by 11.7 per cent in under-16s.
Under-18 conceptions in England (10)
Year Number of conceptions Conception rate a Percentage leading to legal abortion

2008b

38,750

40.5

49.7

2006

39,170

40.6

48.8

2005

39,804

41.3

46.8

2002

39,350

42.7

45.8

1998

41,089

46.6

42.4

a per 1,000 females aged 15–17

b provisional

 

Under-16 conceptions in England (10)
Year Number of conceptions Conception rate a Percentage leading to legal abortion

2008b

7,123

7.8

61.8

2006

7,330

7.7

60.2

2005

7,473

7.8

57.5

2002

7,395

7.9

55.7

1998

7,855

8.8

52.9

a per 1,000 females aged 13–15

b provisional

Wales

  • As part of a general sexual health strategy, the Government aims to reduce teenage pregnancy rates(11) and has developed an action plan to achieve this(12).
  • Between 2000 and 2007 the teenage conception rate fell by 6.5 per cent in under-18s and by 3.4 per cent in under-16s.

 

Under-18 conceptions in Wales (13)
Year Number of conceptions Conception rate a Percentage leading to legal abortion

2007

2,622

44.9

41.6

2005

2,521

43.6

38.6

2004

2,605

45.1

38.5

2002

2,601

46.0

38.6

2000

2,649

48.0

34.7

a per 1,000 females aged 15–17

 

 

Under-16 conceptions in Wales (13)
Year Number of conceptions Conception rate a Percentage leading to legal abortion

2007

482

8.5

52.9

2005

457

7.9

50.8

2004

434

7.5

49.3

2002

480

8.4

53.5

2000

495

8.8

46.5

a per 1,000 females aged 13–15

Scotland

  • The National Sexual Health Strategy for Scotland(14) includes the target to reduce the under-16 conception rate by 20 percent by 2010 (from 8.5 per 1,000 13–15 year olds in 1995, to 6.8 per 1,000).

 

Under-18 conceptions in Scotland (15)
Year Number of conceptions Conception rate a Percentage leading to legal abortion

2008b

3,857

40.4

45.7

2006

3,912

41.5

45.0

2005

3,920

41.7

44.4

2002

3,807

39.8

39.6

1998

4,212

44.9

36.0

a per 1,000 females aged 15–17

b provisional

 

 

Under-16 conceptions in Scotland (15)
Year Number of conceptions Conception rate a Percentage leading to legal abortion

2008b

713

7.9

61.9

2006

773

8.1

59.1

2005

681

7.1

58.3

2002

686

7.3

51.7

1998

775

8.3

46.4

a per 1,000 females aged 13–15

b provisional

Northern Ireland

  • The Government aims to reduce the rate of births to teenage mothers under 17 years of age by 25 per cent by 2013 (from a baseline of 3.1 births per 1,000 females aged under 17 years in 2003–2005)(16).
  • Conception data is not available for Northern Ireland, due to the lack of complete data on the number of women having abortions. Abortion is only legal in exceptional circumstances and many women will travel to England to have an abortion.
  • In 2008, 185 women aged under 20 travelled to England to have an abortion(17). compared with 301 in 2000, although these numbers are likely to be an underestimate.
  • In 2008, there were 1,426 teenage births (under 20), a rate of 23.0 per 1,000 15–19-year-olds. The rate has fallen by 6.6 per cent since 2000(18).

References

1 Avery L and Lazdane G, What do we know about sexual and reproductive health of adolescents in Europe? European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care vol13, no 1, March 2008 pp58–70.

2 United Nations Statistics Division, ‘Statistics and Indicators on Women and Men, Table 2b- Indicators on Childbearing’, accessed 3 March 2009.

3 Guttmacher Institute, US Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity (New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2010).

4 Swann C et al, Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood: A review of reviews. Evidence briefing (London: Health Development Agency, 2003).

5 Lee E et al, A Matter of Choice? Explaining national variation in teenage abortion and motherhood (York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2004).

6 Teenage Pregnancy Unit, ‘About the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy’, accessed 27 July 2010.

7 Department for Education and Skills, Teenage Pregnancy Next Steps: guidance for local authorities and primary care trusts on effective delivery of local strategies (London: DfES, 2006).

8 Department for Education and Skills, Teenage Pregnancy: accelerating the strategy (London: DfES, 2006).

9 Department for Children, Schools and Families and Department of Health, Teenage Pregnancy Strategy: Beyond 2010 (Nottingham: Department for Children Schools and Families, 2010).

10 Teenage Pregnancy Unit, Teenage Pregnancy Statistics.

11 National Assembly for Wales, A Strategic Framework for Promoting Sexual Health in Wales (Cardiff: NAW, 2000).

12 National Assembly for Wales, A Strategic Framework for Promoting Sexual Health in Wales: Post-consultation action plan (Cardiff: NAW, 2000).

13 Welsh Assembly Government, Statistical Directorate, Teenage Conceptions in Wales, 2007 (Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government, 2009), Statistical Bulletin 68/2009.

14 Scottish Executive, Respect and Responsibility: Strategy and action plan for improving sexual health (Edinburgh: Scottish Executive, 2005).

15 ISD Scotland, Teenage Pregnancy 2008, accessed 27 July 2010.

16 Northern Ireland, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Sexual Health Promotion: Strategy and Action Plan 2008-2013 (Belfast: DHSSPSNI, 2008), accessed 4 March 2009.

17 Department of Health, Abortion statistics, England and Wales: 2009 (London: DH, 2010). Statistical Bulletin 2010/01.

18 General Registrar Office (Northern Ireland), Registrar General Annual Report 2008 (Belfast: Stationery Office, 2009).

Other relevant FPA factsheets

Teenagers: sexual health and behaviour

Teenage pregnancy (Northern Ireland) PDF