Teen birth rate continues to fall

The number of teenagers giving birth in Ireland continues to fall, new figures have shown.

According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the number of teenagers who gave birth fell from 1,187 in 2015 to 1,098 in 2016.

Furthermore, since the establishment of the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme in 2001, the total number of teenagers giving birth has fallen significantly.

Some 3,087 teenagers gave birth in 2001, compared to 1,098 in 2016 - a fall of 64%.

In 2001, the birth rate among females aged 15-19 was 20 per 1,000 women. By last year, this rate was 7.8 per 1,000.

"The Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) Programme in schools and in youth centres plays a crucial role in informing teenagers about healthy relationships and the potential consequences of early sex.

"The teenage birth rate has gradually declined since the introduction of the programmme. Previous research has found that those who received RSE were more likely to use contraception at first sex, which suggests that RSE in schools and youth centres has made a significant contribution to the decline," commented Orla McGowen of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

A recent survey of 17 and 18-year-olds showed that one in three had previously had sexual intercourse. Among those who were sexually active, 79% said that they always used some form of contraception. However, just 56% said that they always used a condom.

This suggests that while teenagers are aware of the risk of pregnancy, they are putting themselves at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show that in 2016, almost 1,000 teenagers aged 15-19 were diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes.

This marked an 8% increase in STIs among teenagers when compared to 2015's figures.

Sexually active young people are advised to use both condoms and a hormonal method of contraception to protect themselves and their partners from unplanned pregnancies and STIs.

"Research also shows that delaying sexual activity until young people are 17 or 18 years old can help reduce the risk of an unplanned pregnancy and an STI. It is important for parents to talk to their children about relationships and sex from an early age to help delay early sex and to make protected, safe, informed and consensual decisions about their sexual health," Ms McGowan added.

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[Posted: Thu 01/06/2017]

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