Teen pregnancy rates in Scotland are at their lowest for almost 30 years – but how did we get here and why do health bosses want them to fall even further?
The latest figures show 3,814 babies were conceived by teenagers in 2019, giving birth later that year or in 2020.
This included 219 children who were under 16-years-old.
Public Health Scotland (PHS) said this amounts to a teen pregnancy rate of 27.7 per 1,000 women – almost half the level recorded in 2010 and the lowest since reporting began in 1994.
“It’s not the end of the world – but it is more difficult”
While teen pregnancy is a deliberate life choice for some, efforts are continuing to lower the number of unintended situations.
For the first time, the proportion of pregnancies which ended in termination was greater than the number of babies delivered – suggesting many had not been planned.
The Scottish Government says young mums can be at a greater risk of poverty and poor health due to the various social and economic circumstances which can arise.
Eleanor McEwan is the general manager of charity Home-Start Aberdeen, which often provides support to people in such situations.
“There’s no shame in being pregnant as a teenager,” she said. “We just need to get to a situation where it’s a choice rather than something unexpected.
“It’s not the end of the world in the same way it was in the past – but it is more difficult.
“And if you’re on your own, as a single parent, that’s hard going.”
She added: “Generally, the challenge for teenagers who are pregnant is that it can limit their options.
“It makes it really difficult for them to stay in school, or go onto college or university, or to get employment full-time if they don’t have many skills or experience.
“And often it can feel quite isolating and like they’re living a different life from their peers.
“None of their friends have babies, and the only people they know that do are older, so they can’t really relate.
“That can make them quite isolated and can cause depression and mental health problems.”
Dramatic change in Scottish teen pregnancy statistics
According to the new statistics from Public Health Scotland, Aberdeenshire and the islands are among the areas with the lowest rates in the country.
Moray and the Highlands are also below the Scottish average, with Aberdeen City slightly above it.
Clackmannanshire, Dundee and Midlothian had the highest rates.
Overall, numbers fell for the 12th consecutive year and are now less than half what they were in 2007.
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “From a public health perspective, the decreasing rates of pregnancies in young people in Grampian shows us that we have and will continue to create choices for young people to plan pregnancy that work in with their own aspirations.”
The PHS figures show the proportion of teen pregnancies which result in termination is now higher than delivery – at 50.3% compared to 47.7%.