Underage teenage pregnancy rates: are they really "soaring"?

Published: 2nd May 2012

"Teen pregnancies are down to a new record low, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics."

The Guardian, 26 March 2012

Last month the Guardian reported that teen pregnancies were down to a record low. By contrast this week the Sun referred to "soaring underage pregnancy rates" when discussing a report that recommended that girls as young as 13 be given access to the pill.

So what is the truth regarding teenage pregnancy rates?

The Guardian has taken its figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which has just released new data on conception rates.. The accompanying notes support the Guardian's claims:

"The under 18 conception rate for 2010 is the lowest since 1969 at 35.5 conceptions per thousand women aged 15—17."


"The estimated number of conceptions to women aged under 18 also fell to 34,633 in 2010 compared with 38,259 in 2009, a decline of 9.5 per cent."

The figures relating to the number of conceptions for under 18s can also be found in table 6 of the ONS's statistical release. Here's what's happened to the total number of conceptions for under 18s since 1998:

The number of conceptions dropped from 44,119 in 1998 to 34,633 in 2010.

So how do we explain The Sun's claim of "soaring underage pregnancy rates"? The newspaper does not mention figures but the reference to "underage" pregnancy rates suggests we might want to look at the number of conceptions for those under 16. These can be found in table 1 of the ONS release.

Despite what The Sun alleges, since 1998 we've been dealing with a downward trend in underage pregnancies.

While the Guardian accurately quoted figures on the number of conceptions amongst under 18s, there is no evidence to support the Sun's claim that underage pregnancies are falling.


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