SWINDON has well and truly shed its reputation as the UK’s teenage pregnancy capital with a drop of 42.4 per cent in the number of unwanted pregnancies over the past 14 years.
In 1998, 218 under-18s gave birth compared to around 118 in 2011/2012. This represented nearly twice the teenage conception rate in the south west and a third more than the national rate.
Swindon reduced its teenage conception rate to 25.2 per 1,000 between July 2011 and June 2012, compared to the national figure of 29.4 for England.
The rate is defined as the number of conceptions to under 18-year-olds in a calendar year per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17.
The sharp drop in unwanted pregnancies is due to a large campaign aiming to educate youngsters about contraception and a concentrated effort by the local authority and sexual health services over the past decade.
While dedicated clinics are held for young people under 20 at Swindon Health Centre, Carfax Street, every week, contraception outreach nurses visit youngsters at home, college or school. This service is particularly useful for the most vulnerable youths, who are often at the highest risk of teenage pregnancy.
Dr Jessica Daniel, sexual health and HIV consultant at the Great Western Hospital said the town had hugely invested in prevention and education over the last few years.
“The figures reduced following the publication of the government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in 1999, which aimed to halve the numbers of teenage pregnancies across the UK,” she said. “In Swindon resources were made available to healthcare workers to try and achieve this goal. The use of longer-acting contraceptive methods, such as the Depo injection, the coil and the implant have also helped as they are generally more effective than the pill.”
She added: “The school nurses play an active part in providing education and advice around relationships, sexual health and contraception during their drop in sessions. They work very closely with the outreach nurses to ensure that the young people are able to access services in a timely manner.
“I think it’s extremely important that schools continue to provide and prioritise sex education, especially in the current economic climate when services are constantly threatened with cuts.”
Just seven years ago, Swindon’s teenage conceptions, exactly 157, were almost equal to the 164 recorded in Bath, North East Somerset and Bournemouth combined.
Councillor Brian Mattock, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “Our school nurses and youth engagement practitioners work closely with the sexual health outreach nurses based in the local Contraceptive and Sexual Health Service and a number of joint initiatives have been instrumental in achieving the reduction in teenage pregnancy.
“These include a condom distribution scheme and good availability of local, young people’s sexual health clinics. School nurses are also able to distribute emergency hormonal contraception under the framework of a Patient Group Direction, while there are drop-in school nurse-run clinics in all secondary schools.
“Although we are continuing to see a significant decrease in the teenage pregnancy rate in Swindon we are by no means complacent and will be building on the positive work already carried out.”