TEENAGE pregnancy rates have fallen by more than a third in Lothian in recent years but ministers have pledged to do more to tackle the link between social deprivation and the number of young mums.
Figures published by ISD Scotland yesterday showed that 67 girls aged under 16 became pregnant in 2013, compared to 91 in 2007 – a drop of 35 per cent.
There were also 290 pregnancies among girls under 20 in the poorest communities in 2013 compared to just 100 in the most affluent areas. The stark contrast was “concerning” said Labour’s health spokesperson Jenny Marra, who called for greater equality of choice for young women.
Dona Milne, deputy director of public health at NHS Lothian, said: “These latest statistics are really good news and show that our work to improve sex and relationships education and provide accessible young people’s services across Edinburgh and Lothian, is paying off.
“We do recognise, however, that there remains a strong link between deprivation and teenage parenthood and although good sex and relationships education are important, our focus also needs to be on earlier interventions, including increasing school attendance, educational attainment, increasing aspirations and addressing wider inequalities.”
Ministers launched a public consultation yesterday on its draft national pregnancy and parenthood in young people strategy, to combat the cycle of deprivation by looking a wider issues around sexual health and relationships.
The new strategy – a first for Scotland – also suggested creating a national lead on teenage pregnancy, who will co-ordinate policy through different agencies and health boards.
Public health minister Maureen Watt said: “Reducing levels of pregnancy in young people will help to increase the choices, opportunities and wellbeing available to them throughout their lives.”
NHS Lothian saw the second highest teen pregnancy rates among under 18s and under 20s, after NHS Fife, and the fourth highest in under 16s.
Harry Walker, policy manager at sexual health charity Family Planning Association, said: “While the overall figure is progress, the regional variations and continued link between teenage pregnancy and levels of deprivation must be addressed.
“This is a trend which is reflected elsewhere in the UK, and can only be combated through focused efforts to meet the needs of young people.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s strategy to build on the progress that has been seen in recent years, and particularly the emphasis on education being crucial.”
Ms Marra said: “News that teenage pregnancies across Scotland have dropped is welcome.
“The persistent trend that girls in the most deprived communities have the highest levels of pregnancies is still concerning because girls from all communities should have equality of choice and chances.”