Intended for healthcare professionals


Preventing teenage pregnancies, supporting teenage mothers

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 26 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1713

Target is ambitious but probably achievable

  1. Caroline Mawer, Consultant in public health medicine. (
  1. Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority, London SE1 7NT

    “It sometimes seems as if sex is compulsory but contraception is illegal”1

    At last an official report has recognised that the large numbers of young parents in the United Kingdom are not motivated to become parents by the promise of benefits or council flats. Last week's report from the government's Social Exclusion Unit says that instead these young people simply “see no reason not to get pregnant.”1 They have low expectations of employment; ignorance about what to expect in relationships and about contraception; and they receive mixed messages from an adult world that bombards them with sexual messages but turns away when they need advice, “at best embarrassed, at worst silent.” The result is not less sex, but less protected sex.

    In response to the Social Exclusion Unit report, the government has allocated £60m to support its recommendations for local and national coordination, improvements in sex education and contraceptive services, and support for pregnant teenagers and teenage parents. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of this was lost in media reporting, which put a punitive “spin” on proposals to end lone council tenancies for teenage mothers. Support for teenage parents is actually about the sort of targeted midwifery offered for under 18 year olds in Southwark by the Bessemer practice; the Newpin parent support and personal development …

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