TEENAGE pregnancy rates in Southend have fallen but are still above the national average.

The Office for National Statistics data shows there were 18.6 conceptions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17 in the area between April and June last year, the latest period for which data is available.

This was far lower than during the same period the previous year, when the rate was 27.8 per 1,000.

Southend Council admitted it was very pleased with the results, with Southend traditionally having high rates of teenage pregnancies.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service attributed the dramatic decline in English teenagers becoming pregnant over the last two decades to substantial shifts in their lifestyles.

It also pointed towards improved access to contraception and information about sexual health.

In April this year, Southend Council launched the Southend Sexual Health Clinic in partnership with Provide, Southend Hospital and the Terrance Higgins Trust, and it is hoped the additional access to advice and contraception could further lower the rates of teenage pregnancies.

A council spokesman said; “We are really pleased to see the recent reduction in teenage pregnancy figures. Southend Council’s public health team is currently exploring all the issues influencing teenage conceptions locally, in the hope we can further understand the trends and keep the figures down.

“We will continue to work with our wider system partners, so we can be sure young people have all they need to make the right decisions for their future.”

The rate across England fell from 18.3 to 16.7 per 1,000 over the period. Nationally conceptions halved over the seven-year period, from 7,373 to 3,679.

However it is feared delays at the Sexual Health Clinic, reported on by the Echo yesterday, could lead to the figure rising once more.