Teenage pregnancy rates have dipped to their lowest level since records began almost half a century ago, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 2016 saw the lowest under-18 conception rate in England and Wales since comparable statistics were first produced in 1969.
Even year-on-year figures showed a big dip, with an 11% decrease in the number of teenage pregnancies in 2016 compared with 2015.
In 2016, there were 18,076 conceptions to women aged under 18 years in England and Wales, the ONS found.
The official statistics body said that the under-18 conception rate was 18.9 conceptions per thousand women aged 15 to 17 years in 2016.
In 1969, there were 45,495 conceptions to women aged under 18 years, resulting in a rate of 47.1 conceptions per thousand women.
Sex and relationships education, improved access to contraceptives, a “shift in aspirations” of young women towards education and stigma around teenage pregnancies may be behind the dip, the ONS said.
The figures also showed that over all age groups conceptions in 2016 dropped to their lowest number and rate since 2005.
In 2016, the estimated number of conceptions in England and Wales was 862,785.
Most of these pregnancies occurred outside of wedlock or civil partnership.
The area with the highest under-18 conception rate in England and Wales was Hyndburn in the North West (36.7 per 1,000 women aged 15-17), closely followed by Middlesbrough in the North East https://t.co/mePIwEQMwW pic.twitter.com/LAXjKbswdd— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) March 27, 2018
The number of older mothers also continued to rise – since 1990, the conception rate for women aged 35 to 39 years and 40 and over has more than doubled.
Meanwhile the percentage of conceptions leading to an abortion increased for women in all age groups since 2015, apart from women aged 40 and over.
ONS statistician Nicola Haines said: “Conception rates for women aged under 18 years in England and Wales hit a record low in 2016 – declining by 10% since 2015 and 60% since 1998.
“This could be associated with a shift in aspirations for young women towards education, stigma associated with being a teenage mother and programmes invested in by successive governments.
“The overall conception rate in England and Wales in 2016 was the lowest recorded since 2005, this could be a consequence of declining conception rates for women aged under 25 years.
“Conception rates declined across all age groups between 2015 and 2016, except for women aged 40 and over where the rate increased.”