A recent study published in The Lancet noted that the conception rates for women under 18 years of age in the UK were found to be half compared to the rates in the 1990s. The current rate was found to be 11.4 per 1,000 women aged 15–17 years, with a reduction of 82 conceptions after adjustment for socioeconomic deprivation and regional factors. The reduction in conception trends was achieved as a result of government initiatives including a 10-year ‘National Teenage Pregnancy Strategy’ launched in England in 1999.
The government’s priority of decreasing the extent of teenage pregnancy was translated into action through the launch of this 10-year strategy that aimed to cut down the rates of teenage conceptions to half by 2010. The strategy’s purpose was also to lessen the risk of long-term social exclusion of teenage parents by improving the opportunities in the education, training, and employment sectors.
According to statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), UK, it was found that the rates of teenage pregnancies rose to optimum levels in 1998, but then comparatively decreased after the inception of the 1990 prevention strategy.
The data for the analysis was collected from Britain’s National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL). Its aim was to examine the progress achieved after the establishment of different strategies and initiatives by the government for the fulfillment of goals during the research work done during the periods of the Natsal-2 (1999-2001) and Natsal-3 (2010-12) surveys.
Furthermore, the findings of the research work conducted by a team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College (LSHTM), UK, indicated that the conception rate during the periods of 1998 and 2013 dropped from approximately 47 to fewer than 25 conceptions per 1,000 young women, of 15-17 years of age.
Moreover, from 1998-2013, a significant decrease in conception rates was observed among women in areas receiving the highest TPS funding. The decrease caused conception rates to fall by 34 per 1,000 (from 65 to 31 conceptions per 1,000 women) among women in areas receiving the highest Teaching With Primary Sources (TPS) funding, as compared to a fall of just 16 per 1,000 in areas with the lowest level of funding (from 36 to 20 conceptions per 1,000 women).
The strategy had several constituents with the inclusion of providing awareness opportunities e.g., high-quality sex education, youth-friendly contraceptive services, support for young parents to take part in education, employment opportunities, and other training incentives at both government and local levels. The grants for perusing implementation activities were allotted according to the rate of teenage pregnancy in each area.
The analysis was funded by leading government welfare organizations such as the Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), in collaboration with the Department of Health (DH), UK.
There were three major goals of the research work done by scientists assessing the efficacy of government strategies in reducing teenage pregnancy in the UK.
The first goal was to quantify the number of teenage pregnancies in the UK. The second was the investigation of the social implications of conception among teenagers, with the third objective involving examining the effectiveness of government strategies in reducing teenage pregnancy in England. The study also revealed that the highest proportions of teenage pregnancies occurred in areas that were occupied by socioeconomically deprived groups and where high social and material deprivation was observed.
In continuation of the third step highlighted by the researchers from the University of Nottingham, the need for taking immediate actions entailing improvement of contraceptive advice and services for the reduction of growing incidences of repeat teenage pregnancy in the UK, was brought to light. The researchers deduced the findings after consulting statistics from national abortion figures for England and Wales from 1991-2007.
It was found that the number of women opting for repeated abortions aged less than 20 years, rose over the past 15 years. Therefore, according to the population abortion trends from ONS, a need for better targeted services to support and guide teenagers after having abortion, was felt for the first time.
Professor Kaye Wellings, lead author of the study and educationist at LSHTM, whilst admiring the useful initiatives taken by the UK government to trim down the increased rates of teenage pregnancy, said, “But the more striking decline in under-18 maternities in England compared with other European countries, and its close link with government investment in reducing teenage pregnancy rates, appears to reflect the intensive and sustained efforts of the strategy to address the problem by changing social norms and increasing access to education and reliable contraception.”