Older women are at higher risk, as are first pregnancies. The majority would be wise to seek delivery in specialist centres… This means rural District General Hospitals will need to be close and have good transport links if they are to provide Midwife Led Maternity services. Patients will otherwise have to travel, in advance, to get the least risk of harm to precious pregnancies. Sensible rationing..
Teenage pregnancies have fallen to their lowest rate since records began more than four decades ago.
Once a cause of moral panic, the number of girls under 18 becoming pregnant fell to 24.5 per thousand in 2013, almost half the 1990 rate.
Successive governments, councils and schools have made commitments to address what has often been seen as an intractable social problem.
Experts said that better-targeted sex education, which informed girls at risk of the difficulties of having babies so young, had contributed to the dramatic improvement.
There have been other more controversial measures, including better access to contraception for teenagers and making the morning-after pill more accessible.
The Office for National Statistics, which compiled the figures, cited a “shift in aspirations of young women towards education”. Being trapped at home with a child had become something to avoid, it was suggested.
The UK’s rate of teenage pregnancy remains one of the highest in the European Union, but experts said that the achievement was cause for celebration.
“Despite popular perceptions about the prevalence of teenage pregnancy . . . the conception rate among under-18s has continued to fall and is now at its lowest level since records began in 1969,” said Clare Murphy, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Of those who do become pregnant, many will seek an abortion, she said.
The coalition government did not claim credit for the most recent falls but Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, welcomed the figures.
“Young people who have the highest rate of unplanned pregnancy and teenage parenthood can be at risk of a range of poor outcomes, such as poor educational achievement, poor physical and mental health, social isolation and poverty, so it is vital this downward trend is continued,” said Professor Fenton.
The data found that the trend for later motherhood had gathered momentum. Record numbers of women were giving birth over the age of 35 as they pursued education and careers before settling down, despite this being the point at which fertility plummets.
Official figures show the conception rate for women aged 35 to 39 rose to 64.5 per thousand in 2013, and among the over-40s to 14.2 per thousand — more than double the figures for 1990.
Mr Murphy said that it was clear that women wanted to start families later and that they should not be overly concerned about their chances of successful pregnancy later in life.
“Pregnancy and childbirth for older women can present particular challenges, but rather than pressuring women into having children earlier than they feel is right for them, we need to ensure the maternity services are in place to deliver the care they need,” she said.