The number of teenagers giving birth fell by more than 8% last year while an increasing amount of women over 35 sought crisis pregnancy counselling, new figures revealed today.
Statistics from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency show 2,223 teenagers gave birth in 2009 – down more than 200 on the previous year.
But over the past few years, the organisation’s network of counsellors has reported a rise in older pregnant women requesting their support.
Meanwhile, the number of women giving Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics declined by more than one third from 2001 to 2009, from 6,673 to 4,422.
Katharine Bulbulia, who chaired the Crisis Pregnancy Agency until it was transferred to the HSE in January, said the increase in over-35s requesting help could be down to a number of factors.
“People in the upper age bracket, maybe just before menopause, may take more risks when having intercourse. For others it may be simply failure of contraception.
“And for some a planned pregnancy may have become a crisis because of a change in life circumstances, if they lose their job or the recession impacts upon them.”
Health Minister Mary Harney said the increase in older women seeking counselling was a worrying development.
“Very often it’s assumed that a crisis pregnancy is involving a teenager or somebody that’s very young, but somebody of the age of 35-plus to be experiencing a crisis pregnancy is certainly information that we didn’t have before.
“It seems to be a new development and one that we need to be extremely concerned about.”
Ms Harney insisted the agency – now operating as the Crisis Pregnancy Programme - was in the best possible position as part of the HSE.
“As part of the health service it can oversee linkages between GPs, crisis pregnancy counsellors, social workers and those working in maternity settings to a greater degree,” she added.
“We can in no sense be complacent – it’s a very lonely journey for a woman to find herself in a crisis pregnancy.”
The Crisis Pregnancy Programme is tasked with developing a national strategy to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies by providing information and contraceptive services.
It also provides counselling and medical services to expectant mothers.