baby

'Teen pregnancy rates hit their lowest ever and I am the product of one.'

Teen pregnancy rates in Australia are at their lowest ever, according to the ABS.

“The trend has been going downwards for a number of years and now we have the lowest teen fertility rate on record,” ABS Demographer Alex Cleland told Mamamia.

In the last ten years teen pregnancy has steadily declined.

My mother fell pregnant when she was a teenager. Image supplied.

"If you go back to 1970 the rate was almost four times greater.  By the 1990s it drops quite dramatically - it's almost halved, and it's dropped by about 50% since the 1990s," said Mr Cleland.

The decline may be because teenagers are choosing to study.

"There is a general trend for women to place a high level of value on education and continuing education. More women are choosing to get an education rather than focusing on starting a family," said Mr Cleland.

"It's difficult to point to a data item that proves that, but if you plot employment for young women and educational attainment you will see them increasing as the births are decreasing," he said.

My mother was still young when she sent me to school. Image supplied.

The US and the UK have both recently reported record low teen birth rates.

There was a 61% decrease in the birth rate for teenagers in the US since 1991 and the birth rate for teens has been decreasing across Europe since 2004, according to the British Office For National Stastistics.

In Australia, where you live also has a impact on teen pregnancy rates.

My mother lived in a small country town when she fell pregnant. Image supplied.

The latest figures show there were 76.2 pregnancies in outback Queensland out of every 1,000 teenage girls aged 15-19, compared to only one in North Sydney and Hornsby.

"Women in major cities are less likely to have a child than people in regional areas," said Alex Cleland from the ABS.

So I am definitely one of these statistics. I am a product of a small-town teen pregnancy. My mother left school at 16, gave birth to me when she 17-years-old and went on to have four other children.

My mother tells me that I was "planned" despite the shocked reaction from her family and the small catholic community she grew up in.

"If you were an unmarried mother in the 1970s it was really frowned upon," said Jenny Blake.

But it was a lot more common to be a pregnant teen back then. In the year she fell pregnant there were 30 births for every 1000 17-year-olds in Australia, compared to 9.5 in 2014, according to the ABS.

My mother got married (quickly) before I was born and says having a baby at such a young age was a "positive" experience - mind you, I was the one asking her about it.

My mother, Jenny Blake, was pregnant when she married my father. Image supplied.

"I bounced back really quickly. My pregnancy was wonderful and I had no hiccups through it physically. I was tired and I had sleepless nights but I think because I was so young I managed a lot better than if I was older," she said.

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"I loved being a young mum. I loved growing up with my children - I had fun with them."

She was a fun mum, she dressed like Madonna and definitely did not fit in with the other mothers at the school gates.

I thought my mum was as cool as Madonna. Image via Getty.

"Other Mums thought I was way too young to have a school-age child and it was hard to make mother friends. I was a very confident mum but not confident around other mums because they were so much older," she said.

But my young mum was very responsible and she was determined to prove that she could be a good parent despite her age.

She said having a baby at 17 "was not the end of the world".

"I knew I had to be responsible and grow up really quickly but pregnancy does that - it makes you want to be a better person for you baby," she said.

"[Having babies at a young age] made me very organised and I wanted to succeed in life and be an example to my children. I had two children before I was 21 and I didn't like being frowned upon as a mother, so I worked hard and I became a house owner very young. I was inspired to have a home for my children and show them good examples," she said.

She climbed the corporate ladder with on-the-job experience and has recently started her tertiary education.

"I had to wait until all my children grew up to become a full-time student like my peers did when they were young but I'm loving every second of it," she said.

Since having a baby myself  - much later in life -  I feel even more grateful for my mother's love. As a teen mum, my mother shelved her education and her freedom so I could have the things that she didn't.

With all my heart, thank you mum.

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