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Abstract

Objectives:To describe trends in teenage pregnancy rates in South Australia and Australia in 1970–2000, and the socio-demographic and clinical characteristics and outcomes of teenage women who gave birth in South Australia in 1995–99.

Methods:A descriptive study using population-based legislated South Australian perinatal and abortion data, Australian Medicare and hospital morbidity data on abortions, and birth registration rates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Results:The teenage pregnancy rate in South Australia fell in the 1970s and 1980s, increased in the 1990s, but is declining at the turn of the century. Teenage abortions exceeded livebirths annually from 1994, and in 2000 the teenage abortion, birth and pregnancy rates were 22.4, 18.3 and 40.8 per 1,000 respectively. The Australian rates, which are an underestimate, follow the South Australian trends and are declining but still much higher than in many western European countries. High socio-economic areas in South Australia have the lowest teenage pregnancy rates but the highest proportion of teenage pregnancies terminated. Teenagers who gave birth were more likely than older women to be Australian-born, Aboriginal, smokers during pregnancy (47% vs. 23%), to attend few antenatal visits, and to have preterm, small-for-gestational-age and low birthweight babies and neonatal deaths. Perinatal mortality has halved among teenagers under 17 years in the past decade.

Conclusions and implications:Births to South Australian teenage women are associated with social disadvantage and relatively poor perinatal outcomes, although these have improved. Current strategies are aimed at reducing the incidence of unplanned teenage pregnancy and improving support for pregnant teenagers.