Teenage pregnancy

We look at the under-18 conception rate in England and how it has changed over time.

Indicator

Last updated: 26/02/2019

Effective clinical care
Public health Children and young people

Background

The majority of teenage pregnancies are unplanned and around half end in an abortion. Research has shown that teenage pregnancy is associated with poorer outcomes for both young parents and their children. Teenage mothers are less likely to finish their education, are more likely to bring up their child alone and in poverty and have a higher risk of mental health problems than older mothers. Infant mortality rates are 60% higher for babies born to teenage mothers. As children, they have an increased risk of living in poverty and are more likely to have accidents and behavioural problems.

Reducing the rate of under-18 conceptions is an ambition in the Department of Health's A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England and is measured as an indicator in the Public Health Outcomes Framework.


How has the under-18 conception rate changed over time? 26/02/2019

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Between 1990 and 2016, the under-18 conception rate decreased by 60%, from 47.7 per 1,000 women in 1990 to 18.9 per 1,000 women in 2016. The rate of decline appeared to accelerate in 2007. In 1999, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England was launched, with the aim of halving the under-18 conception rate by 2010, from a baseline of 46.6 per 1,000 women. The evidence-based whole-system approach, alongside investment in contraceptive services, helped achieve success in many local areas. Although this national target was not met, the under-18 conception rate has continued to fall since the end of this strategy.

In 2016, there were 18,076 conceptions to those aged under 18, equating to 18.9 conceptions per 1,000 women. Of these, 51.4% resulted in abortion, which is the highest percentage in over 25 years. This suggests that more needs to be done to prevent unwanted pregnancy through better sexual education for young people, promoting effective contraception methods and improving access to sexual and reproductive health services.

About this data

Under-18 conception rate per 1,000 population:

  • Numerator: total conceptions in all women aged under 18
  • Denominator: total female population aged 15 to 17.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) conception statistics are compiled by combining information from birth registrations and abortion notifications. Conception statistics include pregnancies that result in:

  • one or more live or still births
  • a legal abortion under the Abortion Act 1967.

Miscarriages and illegal abortions are not included. The date of conception is estimated using recorded gestation for abortions and stillbirths, and assuming 38 weeks gestation for live births. A woman’s age at conception is calculated as the number of complete years between her date of birth and the date she conceived.

The postcode of the woman’s address at time of birth or abortion is used to determine local authority/ward of residence at time of conception.

Only about 5% of under 18 conceptions are to girls aged 14 or under and to include younger age groups in the base population would produce misleading results. The 15 to 17 age group is effectively treated as the 'population at risk'.

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