Teenage pregnancies almost don't happen in Ireland anymore – and here is why
In 2001, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) recorded 3,116 births to teenage mothers in Ireland.
In 2020, this figure was fallen to just 830.
In terms of percentage, teenage births represented 5.7 percent of the 54,789 births in the country in the year2000, whilst in 2020, they accounted for just 1.5 percent of the 55,959 births that year.
This means a rather dramatic drop of 73 percent fall in the number of births to teenage mothers in Ireland over the past 20 years.
According to the Irish Times, a new document, Information Summary about Teenage Pregnancy in Ireland 2000-2020, is set to be published by the Health Service Executive (HSE) this week. And in it, researchers take a look at the figures, and aim to explain why there are almost no teenage pregnancies happening anymore.
Fewer abortions to teenagers happen too
It is worth noting that this is not because teenagers are having more abortions, as there has been a sharp downward trend there too. According to the to-be-released document, in 2018, just 218 Irish-resident teenagers used abortion services in England and Wales, compared with 884 in 2000, a decrease of a whopping 75 percent.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Maeve O’Brien, interim programme lead with the Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP), says that it is so easy for teenagers to be stigmatised in a particular way.
“But when you look at the data, they’re doing brilliantly because they are being supported to do so and we just wanted to make that point.”
O’Brien and her team in the health and wellbeing section of HSE strategy and research tracked and analysed the figures for teenage births, and concludes that “teenagers in Ireland today are more likely to remain in education and more likely to make healthier lifestyle choices than in the past”.
Parents' openness, better sex education and easier access to contraceptives
The decline in teenage pregnancies is due to many factors, both educational and societal, as well as overall global trends, the report finds.
According to findings from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study, teenagers, in general, are healthier and make better choices about their health. They smoke less, get drunk less and as many as 80 percent of sexually active 17-18 year-olds always use some form of contraception.
“But the key point is that there have been broad policy, legislative and societal changes in Ireland in the last 20 years that have contributed to a supportive environment,” O'Brien explains.
More and better sex education in both primary- and secondary education is a key factor, as is parent-child communication about sexual health, says O'Brien, and notes there has been a shift in attitude towards talking to children about sexuality over the past 20 years, with parents nowadays wishing to have the kind of talks with their children about sex that they never really had with their own parents.
According to data from the Growing Up in Ireland study, some 45 percent of young people have discussed sex and relationships with parents by age 13, and that rises to 60 percent by age 17.
More teenagers are staying in education
Another factor that plays in when it comes to the sharp decline in teenage pregnancies, is the fact that more young people stay in school to finish their Leaving Cert, and end up in third-level education.
Higher levels of education have been shown to contribute to improved health generally and are linked to protective behaviours.
As it happens, Irish research suggests that those who leave school by age 17, or who have lower levels of educational attainment, are more likely to report having sex before they reach 17, and are more likely to experience a crisis pregnancy.
According to the new report, of those pupils who started secondary school in 2014, 91.5 per cent stayed in school to complete the Leaving Certificate, compared with 78.3 per cent who entered first year in 1994.