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Teen pregnancies are a concern to the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. ((CBC))

The teenage pregnancy rate in New Brunswick increased slightly last year, according to the Health Department.

New statistics show the rate of teen pregnancies across the province was 24.3 per 1,000 teenage girls in 2008. It was 24.0 per 1,000 teenage girls in 2007.

"There seems to be an increase and that's not good," said Rosella Melanson, executive director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. "Nobody wants more pregnant teens because usually they haven't finished their education. Usually it's not a wanted pregnancy and so it can create some problems."

The largest increase was in Gloucester County, which includes the city of Bathurst. The rate there went from 17.2 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls to 26.6.

The highest rate continues to be in Saint John, where there were 44.8 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls, an increase over 2007, when the rate was 43.0.

Other areas, such as Queens County in central New Brunswick, saw their rates go down.

The statistics include registered live births and stillbirths to N.B. residents inside or outside the province, and abortions performed in N.B. hospitals, but don't take into account abortions performed in clinics or outside of the province, miscarriages or other fetal losses.

But little informaton is available from the province to explain the statistics, said Melanson.

"The province of New Brunswick needs to have a reproductive health policy to look into issues such as this. Is it to do with lack of education, sex education, lack of access to contraception, to emergency contraception, to abortion? Those are the questions that would need to be asked," said Melanson.

Melanson said the current numbers are still a big improvement over the situation years ago. In 1991, the provincial rate was 37.6 per 1,000 girls.

In Canada, the teen birth rate has fallen dramatically during the past two decades, with the latest available figures, for 2004, showing 13.6 births for every 1,000 teen females compared to the U.S. rate of 41.1, Statistics Canada says.

 Regional pregnancy rates (per 1,000 teenage girls)
   1991  2004  2007  2008
 Albert  21.8  20.5  15.5  17.1
 Carleton  49.8  19.1  36.4  30.7
 Charlotte  40.3  23.9  34.9  33.4
 Gloucester  23.8  15.5 17.2  26.6
 Kent  35.1  16.0  22.2  16.7
 Kings  26.9  11.1  15.7  13.6
 Madawaska  24.7  13.0  21.9  18.8
 Northumberland  45.2  17.9  21.1  22.8
 Queens  30.6  33.0  38.7  14.5
 Restigouche  27.3  10.9  20.2  22.0
 Saint John  49.1  37.2  43.0  44.8
 Sunbury  45.9  16.6  19.2  16.6
 Victoria  37.9  27.8  19.2  23.8
 Westmorland  43.8  20.1  25.8  24.7
 York  48.4  22.2  19.4  21.7
 New Brunswick  37.6  20.1  24.0  24.3
 Source: N.B. Department of Health