RATES of pregnancy among girls aged younger than 18 in Worcester are down, but levels are up in the Malvern Hills.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday, Tuesday, February 24 showed pregnancy rates among girls aged between 15 and 17 fell to 24.5 per 1,000 in 2013 – the lowest level since records began in 1969.

Although the most recent data for Worcester only dates to 2012, it shows a decrease from 50.6 pregnancies per 1,000 in 1998 to 43.1 14 years later.

Likewise the amount of under-18s falling pregnant in Wychavon has dropped from 31.8 per 1,000 in 1998 to 21.6 in 2012.

But the Malvern Hills is bucking the trend, with an increase from 16 per 1,000 in 1998 to 22.1 in 2012.

Health experts have been unable to explain the figures, but in its report the ONS said the national decrease could be explained by improved sex education programmes and a "shift in aspirations of young women towards education" or the "perception of stigma associated with being a teenage mother".

"Reasons for an increased number of women giving birth at ages 30 and above include increased participation in higher education, increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnerships,” it said Figures from the Department of Health show 69 girls in south Worcestershire aged under 18 had abortions in 2012 – 11 per cent of all abortions carried out in the area.

Director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service Clare Murphy welcomed the figures.

"Despite popular perceptions about the prevalence of teenage pregnancy, the conception rate among under-18s has continued to fall,” he said.

"More than half of conceptions to under-18s end in abortion and it is extremely important that young women have swift access to the services and support they need to make the right decision for them when faced with an unintended pregnancy.

"The conception rate for older women has risen steadily – pregnancy and childbirth for older women can present particular challenges, but rather than pressuring women into having children earlier we need to ensure the maternity services are in place to deliver the care they need."

Director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange at the University of Bedfordshire Alison Hadley hailed the figures as “an incredible achievement”.

"We must continue to invest in young people's sexual health and ensure each successive generation has the information and services that they need, or the teenage pregnancy rate may well climb again,” she said.

For information on sex education and sexual health services in Worcestershire visit www.playinitsafe.co.uk.