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East Lancashire's gymslip mums on rise
TEENAGE pregnancies among under-16s in Burnley have soared by more than 40 per cent over the past 10 years.
And the number of pregnancies among under-18s has also increased, according to latest official statistics.
There were 98 births for under 18s, up from 91 the previous year.
In Rossendale the figure jumped from 55 to 63 in the same period.
And in 2001-3 there were 52 births involving under-16s, which had increased to 60 by 2008-10, figures by the Office for National Statistics show.
Bank Hall, one of Burnley’s most deprived wards, is in the top 10 for under-18 conceptions in the county.
The extra teen births come at a time when the rates in neighbouring Hyndburn and Pendle have dropped, and only a slight increase was recorded for Blackburn with Darwen.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle blamed the failings of advice services for the shock figures. Several youth advice shops have been closed because of cutbacks.
“The county council needs to get a grip on this - they are receiving the funding and should be sorting this out,” he said.
Countywide research shows that nearly 90 per cent of teenage mothers in Burnley had no educational qualifications, with greater percentages recorded in the town’s central terraced estates.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which has assumed responsibility for sexual health services from NHS East Lancashire, has appointed three teenage health co-ordinators, one each for Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.
A spokesman said that since 1998 there had been a ‘considerable reduction’ in under-18 conceptions, from 146 to 98 currently.
He added: “Although there have been slight fluctuations and increases in particular area, the downward trend is positive and a step in the right direction.
“We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that young people in East Lancashire are able to make informed choices about contraception and sexual health.”
Generally under-18 conception rates have been falling in Burnley, from a high of 146 in 1998 to below 100 in recent years.
Rossendale councillor Gladys Sandiford, a retired midwife, said that the valley’s rates were a ‘surprise’ given the standards of education offered by local high schools.
She added: “When you have mothers who are significantly younger or older then this more likely to give rise to problems in pregnancy and births.
“Babies can often be born premature, or underweight, and they do not get off to the best starts in life.
“It does concern me that there has been this blip, after so many years of progress, and I hope that through more education, through our excellent local schools, that we may able to get the message across to girls, for their own good and that of their babies.”
In a county council report, information officer Afzal Patel said: “The life chances of teenage parents and their children are worse than those of older parents and their children.
“Teenage mothers are likely to experience a poorer standard of living and poorer mental health.
“The children of teenage mothers are also likely to do less well in educational terms, are more likely to become economically inactive and more likely to become teenage mothers themselves.
“The infant mortality rate for babies of teenage mothers is 60 per cent higher than for older mothers. Around half of teenage conceptions end in abortion, suggesting that they are unplanned.”