Belfast Telegraph

Teenage pregnancies in Northern Ireland drop to record low

By Victoria O'Hara

Teenage pregnancies in Northern Ireland have fallen to a record low, new figures have revealed.

Overall in 2013, mothers here gave birth to 24,300 babies – 1,000 less than in the previous year.

A further breakdown of the figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show 940 were to mums aged between 13 and 19.

This is the lowest number on record.

However, other key findings also revealed that more than half of all registered births – 13,000 –were to women aged over 30.

And 42% of the births were to mothers who were not married–a 1% drop compared to 2012.

Just over 10% of births were to mothers born outside the UK and Ireland. That is compared to just over 2% in 1998.

The majority of newborns were delivered in the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast, the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, and Craigavon Area Hospital.

Audrey Simpson, director of the Family Planning Association (FPA) in Northern Ireland, said the reduction in teen pregnancies showed the positive effects of investing in sex education.

"These things never happen overnight. I think we are gradually seeing the fruits of all the work we have been doing with young people and the training that we are doing with professionals. We are now working much more strategically and being very realistic in the work we are doing with young people and it is now paying off."

Ms Simpson said the rise in the number of births to both older and unmarried mothers was a sign of a continuing trend.

"The babies might be born outside marriage but the mums maybe still have supportive partners. And it is not just teenagers who choose to do that."

Clare-Anne Magee, director for Parenting Forum at Parenting NI, said the statistics showed that attempts to reduce teenage pregnancies across the Health and Social Care Trusts through sex education or raising awareness of issues facing young mums and dads was working.

"Although the evidence says the number of young mothers is decreasing, it is imperative that the still significant numbers of young mums in Northern Ireland continue to receive support particularly around their self-esteem to enable them to confidently parent their children," she said.

Ms Magee said another statistic that is relevant is that over 53% of babies born in 2013 were born to mums over the age of 30.

"The average age of first-time mums in 2013 was 28, compared to 24.5 years old in 1983, which suggests that mums and dads are putting off having children until later years due to pursuing education and careers."

She added: "New parents, whatever their age, need a lot of support and that's why statistics such as these are vital so that when it comes to planning services and the delivery of those services across the new local government districts and trust areas, they can be allocated where needed most."

David Marshall from NISRA said the demographic changes would influence public policy.

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