Teenage pregnancy rate falls to record low, figures show
The rate of teenage pregnancies has dipped to its lowest level since records began, official figures show.
The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) records also show that the number of abortions has increased over the last two decades.
The latest figures, from 2014, show that out of every 1,000 teenage girls aged 15 to 17 in England and Wales there were 22.9 pregnancies. In 1969, when comparable records began, the rate stood at 47.1 conceptions for every 1,000 girls in this age group.
The ONS figures also show a dip in the number of girls under the age of 16 who fall pregnant. In 2014, it was estimated that 4,160 girls under 16 fell pregnant - a 10% decrease compared to 2013.
Overall there were 871,038 conceptions to women of all ages.
The ONS said that c onception rates in 2014 increased for women aged 25 years and over, and decreased for women aged under 25 years.
The figures also show that the number of abortions has increased since the mid-90s - i n 1994 the percentage of pregnancies leading to abortions stood at 19.5%, in 2014 this figure had increased to 21.1%.
The ONS said that the percentage of conceptions leading to a legal abortion varied by age group.
In 2014, the highest rate of abortions was seen in girls under 16 where 63% of all conceptions led to abortion, the lowest was among 30 to 34-year-old women, where the figure stood at 13%, the figures show.
Genevieve Edwards, director of policy at reproductive health charity Marie Stopes UK, said: "It's hugely heartening to see the under-18 conception rate at its lowest since 1969.
"However, the percentage of conceptions leading to abortion increased in 2014 for all age groups under 40, which means we must redouble efforts to make contraception accessible to all women.
"Too often, women are limited to short-term, less effective methods like the pill. We must invest in training for GPs and clinics to offer all methods with confidence, giving women real control over their fertility."
Natika Halil, chief executive of s exual health charity FPA, added: "It is great that there has been a continued decrease in the teenage pregnancy rate for England and Wales.
"Not all teenage pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted, but young people who become parents under 18 have a higher risk of poorer health, education, economic and social outcomes.
"However, once again there are huge variations in pregnancy rates between different areas.
"In the last year we have seen the Government fail to make sex and relationships education statutory and significant cuts made to public health budgets in England. Neither is going to help bring the country's teenage pregnancy rate more in line with other countries in Europe and both need to be given serious consideration."
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and well being at Public Health England, said: " Young people with the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy and teenage parents are also more likely to have poor educational achievement, poor physical and mental health and experience social isolation and poverty.
"It is encouraging to see that pregnancy rates for under-18s is at its lowest in over 40 years - with a continued downward trend.
"Ensuring every child has the best start in life is a priority for Public Health England and we will continue to work with local authorities and partner agencies to give under-18s and teenage parents the support they need."