Teen pregnancy rate hike not trend, health officer says

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health says a recent report showing a rising number of teenage pregnancies in the province doesn't indicate a trend.

Less than years ago, says Dr. Eilish Cleary

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health says a recent report showing a rising number of teenage pregnancies in the province doesn't tell the whole story.

Dr. Eilish Cleary says the numbers may have increased, but with such a small population, the increase doesn't qualify as a trend.

"It is less than it was many years ago and so the programs that are in place seem to be helping," Cleary said.

Dr. Eilish Cleary says existing programs are helping reduce the number of teen pregnancies.

"Obviously there's room to continue working in this area because we want to try and avoid unplanned pregnancies in the teenage years," she added.

Last week, the province's Office of the Child and Youth Advocate released a report which raised concern about the rate of teenage pregnancy, saying the number of live births to teenagers in New Brunswick is 30 per cent higher than the national average.

One in almost 40 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is getting pregnant, according to the province’s health department.

By comparison, there had been a dip in the number of young people becoming pregnant. In 1992, the number of pregnant teens was 1,162.  In 2009, it had dropped to 619.

"The good news is that in general rates have been declining steadily over the last two decades, and have dropped in half," said Cleary. "So while we do see this fluctuation from year to year, I think it is definitely improving in New Brunswick.

"If you look at what that means in the context of Canada, there are a couple of provinces that stand out as having a very, very high rate and the rest is somewhere, you know, close together and New Brunswick is in the middle of that pack."

Health authorities continue to work with schools on effective sex education programs, said Cleary.

They are also working on programs that improve self esteem and resilience in young girls, she said.