Tackling teenage pregnancy has been high on the political agenda since 1999, when the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was published. Teenagers who become pregnant probably need more support than older mothers-to-be. Young women often become pregnant because they come from unsupported backgrounds and have no ambition or self-belief, and where they have access to alcohol and drugs, which puts them in vulnerable situations. They may believe that the father of the child will take care of them and loves them, but this is often not the case, and the teenage girl is left pregnant and alone. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (1999) has been successful, but this success needs to continue, and this briefing has been written to support those working in local government as they take on the public health role and the commissioning of health and social care services for teenage girls who become pregnant.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 has moved the responsibility of public health to local authorities. They will work together with the Health and Wellbeing Boards to commission high quality public health services. As part of this, they will have increased responsibility for sexual health, including commissioning contraception services to help tackle teenage pregnancies, and testing and treatment of most sexually transmitted infections – HIV testing remains a responsibility of the NHS.
This briefing identifies activities which have been adopted around the country to help support teenage health and reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in England. It helps relevant organisations and people, such as youth centres, and youth workers identify how they can engage young people and improve the services they deliver. The briefing has a section called “Key questions to ask”, which suggests questions that people working with young people should ask within their departments, such as ‘do you address issues such as “poor self-esteem, lack of aspiration and alcohol misuse”’, or ‘are you promoting your sexual health services at the right time and in the right place?’ These questions can help teams focus on how best to target their audience, – young people.
There are five, short case studies, with links to further information, taken from different areas in England and covering the following topics:
- Improving access to contraception
- Training the workforce
- Providing holistic support
- Engaging young people
- Supporting teenage parents
Each of these case studies describes a practical example where they have changed and improved their practice to help reduce teenage pregnancies.
Teenage pregnancy is not just about a young woman being pregnant. That young woman needs to have support to help her recognise the implications of whether or not she decides to have the child. She needs to learn how to take care of it, deal with depression and other pregnancy-related conditions. Her education may suffer as she may not have the time to study and that will have longer implications in terms of future career ambitions.
This is a short and very practical briefing, providing the context, guidance on how to improve practice within in teams and the organisation as a whole, and examples of success, so that teenage pregnancies can either be reduced or at least have better outcomes for all those involved.
If you are working with young people, take a look at the key questions to ask and see how it applies in your team. Are there areas where you could improve access to contraception or support provided to young people?
Tackling teenage pregnancy (PDF)
Local Government Association
Teenage pregnancy strategy: beyond 2010 (PDF)
Department for Children, Schools and Families, Department of Health