The Facts on Teenage Pregnancy in Canada

Rates of teenage pregnancy in Canada are some of the highest in the developed world, though the numbers are below those of the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1994, approximately 47,800 pregnancies were recorded for adolescents who were between 15 and 19 years old. Of this number, roughly 21,000 women chose abortion, about 2,000 had a stillbirth or miscarriage that required hospitalization, and 24,700 carried the pregnancy to term. The incidence of pregnancy in Canada in 1994 was lower than it was two decades earlier, but since 1987 it experienced an increase.

Since 1994, however, teenage pregnancy in Canada has been decreasing. In 2003, 33,553 pregnancies were reported for women who were younger than 20, and this included live births, abortions, and stillbirths/miscarriages. The rate of teenage pregnancy in Canada, which comes out to about 27.1 per 1000, is highest among adolescents between the ages of 18 and 19; many of the pregnancies within this group, however, are planned. The pregnancy rate in teenagers ranging from 15 to 17 is lower and the rate among girls younger than 15 is even lower.

Equally important, there has also been a change in the resolutions of teenage pregnancies. In 1974, 66% of adolescent pregnancies ended in a live birth, 26% in abortion, and 8% in a stillbirth/miscarriage. In 1994, on the other hand, the majority, 51%, of pregnancies among teenagers still ended in live birth, but almost as many this time, 45%, ended in abortion. Indeed, in 1994, Canada saw the highest annual number of teenage abortions in the previous two decades with 21,000 teenagers choosing this option to end their pregnancy. Teenagers actually represented 20% of the total number of abortions performed in 1994, and represented just 6% of all live births. In 2003, the number of adolescent pregnancies ending in abortion rose to 50%.

Rates of teenage pregnancy in Canada vary by province and territory. In 1994, the Northwest Territories had the highest pregnancy rate among adolescents with 137 per 1,000 women who were between 15 and 19. Next came Yukon, with 88 pregnancies per 1,000; rates among the provinces varied from just over 60 per 1,000 in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to just over 30 in Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. Quebec’s teenage pregnancy rate remains the lowest in the country.

In order to curb the rate of teenage pregnancy in Canada, the country is looking to the Netherlands, which has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates, for suggestions. Based on observations, it seems that sex education, open discussion of human sexuality in the mass media, easier access to contraceptives, education programs, and active participation of parents and teenagers in such programs are all strategies that could prove useful to keeping the rate of adolescent pregnancy down.

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