Teen pregnancies decline, chlamydia rises

Teen pregnancy rates have steadily declined across Canada, a recent report has found. And the Yukon is leading the charge.

Teen pregnancy rates have steadily declined across Canada, a recent report has found.

And the Yukon is leading the charge.

According to the report, which was published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, birth/abortion rates among women between the ages of 15 to 19 have declined by 37.6 per cent between 1995 to 2005.

Over the same period the Yukon saw a drop of 51.8 per cent.

In 1995, there were 65.1 teen pregnancies or abortions per 1,000 women in the territory, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2005, this number had dropped to 31.4.

That leaves the Yukon with a lower teen pregnancy rate than Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec.

Because of problems with reporting, the NWT and Nunavut were not included in the report.

While these results are fantastic news, Yukon Medical Health Officer Brendan Hanley warns that the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

“I’m skeptical that it’s as dramatic as it appears,” he said.

This is because the report couldn’t have picked better years for the Yukon.

1995 was a high year for teen pregnancies and 2005 was extremely low when you compare them to other years.

From 2001 to 2003 the numbers stay relatively static, from 49.8 to 51.7 to 50.4.

In 2004, there isn’t complete data for abortions.

Then, in 2005, the number nosedived to 31.4.

“It’s too dramatic to be real,” said Hanley.

Whenever you compare stats from the Yukon you have to be careful.

Our small numbers mean a few anomalies here and there can drastically change the numbers.

Looking at the entire set of teen pregnancy data over that decade, Hanley sees a more modest decline, closer to the national average, he said.

“There’s definitely a trend towards decreasing.”

“I would still say that whether it’s an anomalously large amount or not, it’s still very likely a reflection of the long-term trend,” said Alex McKay, from the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada.

McKay was the lead author and research co-ordinator on the report.

Since the 1990s, the territory has been making big changes in its sexual education programs, he said.

“The schools have definitely improved, and more substantially in the Yukon than in other parts of Canada.”

This decrease can likely be attributed to a multitude of factors, including better access to contraception and shifting social norms as well as higher quality sexual education.

“There’s been some wonderful work done over the last 10 years in terms of teaching children healthy sexuality,” said Hanley.

“However, we’re still seeing high-risk behaviour and this is no reason to be complacent.”

While the pregnancy rates are declining, there is evidence chlamydia rates are still on the rise.

The territory has one of the highest rates of chlamydia infection in Canada, said Hanley.

“One of the pitfalls of contraceptives, like the birth control pill, is that teens think they’re protected.”

Hanley has talked with some physicians that are impressed with how well informed their young patients are.

However, other doctors say exactly the opposite.

McKay thinks he has figured out why chlamydia rates are increasing in the Yukon and across Canada.

This is because it is a reported rate.

Doctors look at the results of people who come in for tests for sexual transmitted infections and record all that come back positive.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the prevalence of the infection has gone up.

There just might be more kids getting tested.

“Ironically, in order for the prevalence to go down, this reported rate has to go up,” said McKay.

“But don’t get me wrong. Chlamydia is a serious problem. The prevalence is high and it’s something that we need to address.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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