Teen pregnancy rates rose in St Helens during national lockdown

Teenage pregnancy rates in St Helens are now the second highest in England and Wales, new figures have revealed.

The number of under-18s who became pregnant across England and Wales fell by more than a quarter during the first coronavirus lockdown – however, figures in the borough remain higher than anywhere else in the region.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that 46 girls under the age of 18 became pregnant in the area between January to June 2020 – up from 38 teen pregnancies recorded in 2019 during the same period, and 45 in 2018.

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It means there were 33 pregnancies for every 1,000 girls aged 15 – 17 in St Helens – up from 28 for every 1,000 in 2019.

St Helens came second in a list of areas with the highest rates of teenage pregnancies, behind Blackpool which had 38.6 per 1,000 girls in the same period.

The figures include all pregnancies conceived when the girl was aged 15 to 17, regardless of whether they were carried to full term or terminated through a legal abortion.

They do not include pregnancies which ended in miscarriage or illegal abortions.

While the new data does show a small increase from the previous year, current figures are still a massive improvement from past reports where numbers have peaked at 52 for every 1,000 girls in 2011.

Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, told the ECHO: “As part of our published sexual health strategy for 2021 to 2024, reducing the number of unintended pregnancies remains a priority ambition for the borough, with specific multi-agency actions relating to under 18s.

“Prior to the pandemic a multiagency strategy group came together to draw up a joint plan of action. We have also been working directly with teenage parents who shared with us their experiences and helped us to develop the priorities, including: access to good quality and consistent sex and relationships education, easy access to effective contraception and sexual health services and support for young people and tools to help parents talk to their children about sexual health and relationships.

“Specific actions also include supporting the delivery of relationship and sex education, increasing in the uptake of condoms and LARC (long-acting reversible contraception) and addressing period poverty.

“Tackling teenage pregnancy rates is a complex matter and not only needs a public health response which is why we are working with a variety of organisations to provide young people with the right information and support to boost aspirations.”

Across England and Wales as a whole there were 6,197 teen pregnancies in the first two quarters of 2020, or 13 for every 1,000 girls under the age of 18. That figure has been falling year on year, and is now at the lowest level on record.

A spokesperson for the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said: “The number of conceptions are uncharacteristically low for these quarters after accounting for the trend in decreases over time.

“This is a result of (the) coronavirus pandemic and disruptions to registration services that occurred in 2020, affecting maternity data used to compile the latest conception statistics.”

Elsewhere in Merseyside, Liverpool reported there were 54 teen pregnancies in 2020 while Knowsley saw 31, which equates to approximately 16 for every 1,000 girls under the age of 18 in both areas.

In Wirral there were 35 teen pregnancies (20 for every 1,000), and in Sefton there were 31 (14 for every 1,000).

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