THE under-18 pregnancy rate in West Berkshire has fallen to its lowest level this century, new figures reveal.
The statistics, which measure the number of conceptions in young women aged 15 to 17, show that in 2015, 46 fell pregnant in the district, equating to a pregnancy rate of 14.6 in every 1,000 in West Berkshire.
According to the figures from the Office for National Statistics, the rate has fallen dramatically since the year 2000, when 83 women in that age group conceived – equivalent to 27.6 in every 1,000.
The 45-per-cent drop means West Berkshire has the fourth lowest conception rate in under-18s in Berkshire, with Bracknell Forest (7.4), Wokingham (8.1) and Windsor and Maidenhead (9.1) having the lowest. In 2015, both Reading and Slough had a conception rate of 22.2 in every 1,000.
Across the wider region, the under-18 pregnancy rate has also continued to fall, with the rate for the South East in 2015 the lowest since records began in 1969, at 17.1.
While the news has been welcomed, there are concerns that the continued reduction in public health funding may mean the rate once again will begin to rise.
Sexual health charity FPA’s chief executive Natika H Halil said: “This reduction is thanks to the hard work of health and education professionals, and the legacy of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy – a key component of which was improving access to contraception.
“However, recent dramatic cuts to contraception services could see this improvement reverse.
“The UK Government has cut public health budgets by a whopping £800m over six years.
“Research by the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) has found that in 2015-2016, more than one in six local authorities decreased their spending on contraception services as a result of this public health cut.
“While not all local authorities have reduced their spending, many have, and we’re concerned this trend could increase.”
West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton confirmed the local authority had not reduced its spending on contraception, but added that demand for the service was decreasing.
She continued: “We also continue to provide information and advice on contraception though our website and C-CARD scheme. The team also funds a Healthy School co-ordinator who raises awareness on wide range of public health issues including sexual health.”