Deprivation and childhood trauma driving Southend’s high teen pregnancy rate, says council report

SOUTHEND’S teen pregnancy rate is 50 per cent higher than the regional average, according to figures published in a council report.

A committee is set to meet this evening to discuss what is causing Southend’s high number of teen pregnancies and how the number can be produced.

An investigation has linked the borough’s high rate of teen pregnancies to deprivation and childhood trauma.

It found that ‘a significant proportion of the young mothers in the most deprived wards’ had suffered childhood traumas such as domestic abuse, Social Services intervention, drug abuse by their parents and mental illness suffered by their parents.

A report to be considered by Southend’s Health and Wellbeing Board tonight says the borough has 24.3 under-18 pregnancies per 1,000 people.

In 2017 – the most recent figures available – this equated to 70 babies born to teenage mothers.
The rate of teenage pregnancies in the east of England is 16 per 1,000, whilst the national rate is 18 per 1,000.

The number of teen pregnancies in Southend has dropped since 1998 from 155 to 70, but since 2013 has ‘plateaued’, the report says, and is not decreasing at the same rate as the rest of the region or the country.

The report says the board aims to ‘reduce the rate of under-18 teenage conceptions and maximise outcomes for young parents’.

This is because teen parents and their babies are far more likely to suffer health problems.

Teenage mothers are three times more likely to smoke throughout their pregnancy and are 30 per cent more likely to experience a stillbirth.

They have higher rates of mental illness in the first years of motherhood and are three times more likely to suffer postnatal depression. Two in three will also see their relationships breakdown either during the pregnancy or within three years of the birth.

Babies of teenage mother have a 60 per cent higher mortality rate, are two times more likely to suffer cot death and are twice as likely to be hospitalised with gastro-enteritis or accidental injury.

By age five, children of teenage mothers are typically four months behind other children on spatial ability, seven months behind on non-verbal ability and 11 months behind on verbal ability.

The report says some failures by the authorities are contributing to the problem.

It says there are no ‘formal’ or ‘clear’ pathways for young mothers in accessing services. It also says that different services are collecting their own date, but not sharing it, causing services and data to become ‘fragmented’.

It says: “There is no current partnership group overseeing this work at a strategic or operational level.”

In addition to joining up services, the report suggests beefing up prevention by ‘reviewing relationship and sex education in schools’.

The Health and Wellbeing Board was due to meet at 5pm today, September 18, in the Civic Suite at the council offices.

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Charles Thomson

Chief Reporter Email: [email protected]