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The number of teenage pregnancies in Ireland has fallen by 64% - but STIs are on the rise

Instances of chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes have all increased among young people.

Image: Shutterstock/Studio KIWI

THE NUMBER OF teenage pregnancies has fallen by 64% in 15 years, new statistics have shown.

The HSE said that new birth figures released by the CSO today show a decrease in the number of births to teenagers from 3,087 in 2001 to 1,098 in 2016.

This equates to a decrease in the teen birth rate from 20 per 1000 of women aged 15-19 in population in Ireland in 2001 to 7.8 per 1000 of in 2016.

Orla McGowan of the HSE’s Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme said: “The Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme in schools and in youth centres plays a crucial role in informing teenagers about healthy relationships and the potential consequences of early sex.

“The teenage birth rate has gradually declined since the introduction of the programme. Previous research has found that those who received RSE were more likely to use contraception at first sex which suggests that RSE in schools and youth centres has made a significant contribution to the decline.”

While the number of pregnancies are down, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise among young Irish people.

STIs on the rise

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) records show that in 2016, there were 990 cases of teenagers (15-19) diagnosed with either chlamydia (608 cases) gonorrhoea (209) or genital herpes (173 cases) This represents a 8.3 % increase in STIs in teenagers in 2016 when compared to 2015 figures.

The Growing Up in Ireland survey also revealed of 17 and 18-year-olds found that one third of young people reported they had previously had sexual intercourse. Other studies with teenagers, such as the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children, 2014 have found similar proportions of sexual activity.

Of those who were sexually active, 79% reported that they always used some form of contraception. According to the HSE, “this shows that the majority of sexually active teenagers are aware of the risk of pregnancy and use contraception to protect themselves”.

McGowan added that while this relatively high rate of contraceptive use is encouraging, condom use is much lower among the group, with only 56% reporting that they always used one.

She said:

This suggests that four in ten sexually active teenagers are not using a condom every time they have sex, which puts them at risk of contracting an STI. What is particularly worrying is that more than one in ten sexually active teenagers reported that they never used a condom when having sex.

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