Conflicting results published on underage and teenage pregnancies

Teenage pregnancy rates have long been a concern and it has even been suggested that young women should be given access to contraception from the age of thirteen. Yet it is hard to establish the true picture based on reports in the news media. Recently, two leading newspapers reported contrasting results for teen and underage pregnancies.

The Guardian, relying on information from the Office of National Statistics, reports that for women 15-17 years of age the rate of pregnancies per thousand was 35.5 and this is the lowest since 1969. The decrease in the number of pregnancies was 9.5 percent over the same period, although this figure can be a misleading statistic because much can depend on variables such as population increases or immigration inflows.

It can be difficult to determine trends from official statistics but a fuller analysis of the data indicates that teenage pregnancies have also declined over a longer period of time, with a decrease of nearly 25 percent since 1998. The Guardian states the overall trend for teenage pregnancies is down and it would be difficult to disagree with this claim.

In comparison, The Sun reports that underage pregnancy rates are “soaring”. Although The Sun focuses on underage rather than general teenage pregnancies, these also appear to be declining. The ONS analysis reports a reduction in underage pregnancies of 7 percent, and reduced rate per thousand from 7.5 to 7.0.

The claim from The Sun that underage pregnancies are increasing is hard to confirm from official figures, and it would be interesting to know what data they are basing their report on. The report from The Guardian on teenage pregnancies seems to be more consistent with official figures, which appear to confirm a drop in both teenage and underage pregnancies over a significant period of time.