The number of teenage pregnancies has fallen to a new low in England and Wales, according to the latest available national figures.
In contrast, the data reveals that the number of pregnancies among women over 40 has increased, bringing with it extra pressure on maternity services due to higher risk births.
“Strategies to reduce teenage pregnancies are having some effect”
Conception rates among under 18s have reached the lowest level since records began in 1969, said the Office for National Statistics.
Its statistical bulletin, published today, said that during 2015 the under 18 conception rate was 21 conceptions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17.
The largest fall since the previous year was seen in the under 16 age group, with conceptions decreasing by 17% compared with 10% for under 18s in general.
The estimated number of conceptions to women aged under 18 fell to 20,351 in 2015, compared with 22,653 in 2014. But in the under 16s it fell to 3,466 in 2015, compared with 4,160 in 2014.
Overall, in 2015, there were an estimated 876,934 conceptions to women of all ages, compared with 871,038 in 2014, an increase of 0.7%.
Conception rates in 2015 increased for women aged 25 years and over, and decreased for women aged under 25 years, added the report.
The largest percentage increase in conception rates occurred among women aged 40 and over, with a rise of 4.1% to 15.1 conceptions per thousand women in 2015.
“The government must take steps to make sure these women receive the care they need”
The Royal College of Midwives, said the figures showed “welcome” falls in the conception rates among teenagers, indicating that strategies to reduce teen pregnancies were “having some effect”.
But RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick noted that the rise to births in older mothers was “something that the government must take heed of”.
“Older mothers particularly those into their 30s and 40s can have more complications in pregnancy, needing more support and advice form midwives and other professionals in our maternity services,” she said.
“Pregnancies are also becoming more complex with issues such as obesity and rising levels of diabetes in pregnant women,” she said. “Again these women may have more complicated pregnancies and often need additional support.”
She added: “The government must take steps to make sure these women receive the care they need. England is 3,500 midwives short of the numbers needed.”