While Teen pregnancy rate falls across the North, ours just goes on climbing
Unplanned births to young mums among highest in Europe

Unplanned teenage pregnancies are on the rise in North and West Belfast at the same time as a report issued by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety shows that rates have fallen by 25 per cent across the North.

Whilst the DHSSPS's aim over the last four years was to reduce the number of unplanned births to teenage mothers and provide support has been a success elsewhere, the strategy seems to have failed in the North and West of Belfast.

The report shows that the North and West Belfast Health Services Trust recorded a steady increase in unplanned births to mothers aged under twenty with 260 births in the year 2001; 268 in the year 2002; and 293 in the year 2003. Figures for other health trust areas either decreased or saw fluctuations from year to year resulting in a general downturn. The Newry/Mourne figures, for example, for the years 2001 to 2003 are 56, 63 and 60; the Sperrin/Lakeland Trust recorded 96, 80 and 71 teen births over the same period.

The North and West Trust area also had the highest numbers of teen births in the North with the Newry/Mourne and Armagh/Dungannon trusts recording the lowest numbers.

Our teenage pregnancy rates are among the highest in Europe and the DHSSPS noted that high pregnancy rates often occur in areas of social and economic deprivation, a point that does not go unnoticed by the Ballymurphy Women’s Centre.

“These statistics are probably related to the environment in which young people are living and more efforts must be made to implement sexual health programmes throughout the city,” said centre spokeswoman Deborah Devenny. She added that the statistics were “worrying” and emphasised that more needs to be done in terms of educating young people to be more sexually aware.

“There is a large number of people already working on initiatives to try to stall this evidently growing issue, particularly in West Belfast. For example, we at the Ballymurphy Women’s Centre have started going to the schools to talk to children aged 14 and over about the responsibility involved in becoming a parent.

“We also work in partnership with the Royal Maternity Hospital and are currently collaborating with them in the production of a bi-lingual sexual education DVD which we plan to show in local schools including the Meánscoil.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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