29 May 2012
Free condoms and better sex education have triggered a record fall in teenage pregnancies in the capital.
The number of conceptions among under-18s has dropped below 1,000 for the first time, according to figures published today. Datum from the Office for National Statistics shows there were 960 pregnancies among teen mothers in the first quarter of last year.
This is down from 1,158 in the same period the year before, a fall of 17 per cent. It means that rates in London are now, for the first time, in line with the national average, which is 32.8 pregnancies per 1,000 girls. Teen pregnancy rates in some London boroughs have been among the highest in the country.
Health bosses attribute the dramatic fall to classes in sex and relationships, schemes giving teenagers access to free condoms, and an increase in the uptake of long-acting contraception such as implants and injections.
The fall in pregnancies was welcomed by campaigners including Shereece Marcantonio, who lobbied David Cameron to overhaul sex and relationship lessons by getting young people instead of teachers to educate fellow pupils.
Ms Marcantonio, who lives in Newham, has two older sisters and a brother who became teen parents. “The figures are amazing,” she said. “We’ve still got a long way to go but people are paying more attention to sex education, and talking about safe sex is becoming less and less of a taboo. Education should be done on a peer to peer basis.”
A number of boroughs have adopted the C Card scheme, which gives young people access to free condoms. More than 50,000 condoms have been handed out in London in the last year.
More GPs and nurses are being trained to fit long-acting reversible contraception, and uptake of implants and injections has increased in the capital.
Dr Simon Tanner, director of public health at NHS London, said teen pregnancy figures could even fall below the national average if the downward trend continues: “We have improved access to sexual health services at further education colleges, working with young people to understand what they need,” he added.
Brook, the sexual health advisory service, said: “We know what works to improve young people’s sexual health and wellbeing — providing easy access to services, education and information. The decline in teenage pregnancy rates shows what can happen when these elements are all in place.” Havering achieved the greatest decrease, from 44 to 23 teenage pregnancies, or 47 per cent in one year. However, Croydon, Redbridge and Merton saw a small increase.