This is welcome news as teenage pregnancy is widely recognised as a significant societal problem, associated with lower income, health and educational levels for both mothers and children. Having a child as a teenager is hard both economically and socially, making it difficult to finish school or get a well-paying job and to remain connected to friends and other support networks. Despite increased support for teenage mothers, it remains a difficult situation.
Several factors likely contributed to the continuing reduction of teenage pregnancies. The 1998 Labour government set a target to halve teen pregnancies by 2010, which was unsuccessful but increased government focus on the issue. Improved access to contraception is a major factor, as well as increased sex education for teens. Young women also have increasing educational goals, seeking further degrees and more career security. At the same time, awareness of the negative associations with teenage motherhood have increased stigma, which may have played a role in young women taking greater care to avoid pregnancy.
Campaigners and researchers have been keen to note that while the statistics deserve praise and represent an extraordinary achievement, there is still much work to be done. England in particular continues to have higher teen pregnancy rates that most other western European countries. There are regional disparities as well, with north east England having higher rates than south England. The ONS data also shows that girls under 16 have the highest rates of pregnancies terminating in abortion, at 63%. While easy access to safe abortions is crucial, the better option is pregnancy prevention for teenagers through increased sex education and contraception use.
Contraception use globally is on the rise, with a record number of women using contraception. There are obvious disparities between countries, but UN figures show that 64% of married or cohabiting women now use some method of contraception. In the UK, the contraception pill is the most popular method of family planning, with a prevalence of 28%. As access to and acceptance of contraception continues to improve, these figures should rise.