Perceptions of teenage pregnancy are beginning to change.
At one time, becoming pregnant at such a young age was viewed as a route to living a life on benefits, but contrary to popular belief, many young girls who find themselves in this position have ambitions they want to strive for and they do go on and achieve.
Reanne Moore fell pregnant with her first child at the age of 16. Her daughter, Hollie, is now two, and nine months ago Reanne gave birth to Lilah.
Despite having two young daughters, Reanne is eager to gain the qualifications she missed out on at school. While supported through her education, she was heavily pregnant while taking her GCSEs and suffering severe sickness.
The 19-year-old is now making up for lost time and with her childcare in place, she is currently studying for a business and admin qualification and hopes to embark on an access to midwifery course with a view to making it her fulltime career.
Helping others in a similar situation is another ambition and Reanne is now proving a valuable asset as a peer mentor for teenage parents accessing the family support service at Wyke Community and Children’s Centre.
“Just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you are just a mum,” says Reanne, who was introduced to the centre through Tic Tac (Teenage Information Centre, Teenage Advice Centre).
Tic Tac developed as part of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and offers preventative support and advice for teenagers on issues such as sexual health and relationships.
Its arrival at the centre in 2009 came at a time when Wyke had been earmarked as one of five ‘hotspot’ wards in Bradford with high rates of teenage conceptions.
However, failure to secure further funding has led to the loss of Tic Tac within the Wyke centre at the end of this month, prompting fears that the area could see an increase in teen pregnancies once again.
“My biggest fear for young people who are not already teen parents is that they will not have access to support services we offer and, potentially, in five years time it will be a hotspot ward again,” says Amanda Richardson, Tic Tac co-ordinator and family support worker within the centre.
The area still benefits from a CASH (Contraception and Sexual Health) clinic based at Sunnybank Medical centre, and support for teenage parents is offered through the family support at the children’s centre, but Tic Tac also has an important role offering advice and support to young people who choose to be sexually active.
“It’s about giving them the skills they need to make healthier choices for themselves and once Tic Tac goes that work will stop,” says Amanda.
“Tic Tac is making sure we don’t have lots of young parents coming through; that young people are well educated; that they have the information to make informed health choices for themselves and that if they choose to become sexually active they look after their sexual health.”
The work of organisations such as Tic Tac is evidently proving effective. According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the under-18 conception rate remains the lowest since 1969 at 27.9 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17.
The number of pregnancies in those under 18 fell to 27,834 in 2012 compared with 31,051 in 2011 – a ten per cent drop.
In Bradford, the rate of pregnancy among teenagers across the city and district has fallen again according to the latest three year averages released recently by the Government.
According to the statistics, Bradford has the lowest rate for conceptions among under-18s in West Yorkshire.
Between 2010-2012 there was an average of 31.1 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged under 18, compared to 34.7 between 2009 and 2011 and 40.7 between 2008 and 2010.
Tracey McNeill, senior vice president at Marie Stopes UK Ltd, says: “It is encouraging to see teenage pregnancy rates continuing to decline; however, we still have high rates compared with many other western European countries and we must do all we can to keep the momentum going.
“The evidence is clear that when men and women of all ages are given sex and relationships education, coupled with access to a variety of contraceptive methods, real reductions in unintended pregnancy rates, and consequently abortion rates, can be achieved.
“We need to continue to prioritise sexual health to ensure that the future conception rates reach an all-time low.”