Young mothers face stigma and abuse, say charities

25/02/14

Carly, 26, from London has two sons
Image caption Carly has two sons and often gets mistaken for a teen mum

A group of charities have told Newsbeat young mothers often face stigma despite teenage pregnancy being at its lowest since records began.

The charity Gingerbread said some young mums it works with have been verbally abused by strangers, leaving them feeling isolated and alone.

Carly, 26, from London has two sons and often gets mistaken for a teen mum.

"When I first started to show I was so proud, but all I would get is dirty looks," she said.

People don't understand that just because we are young and we've had our kids it doesn't mean we are not doing anything with our lives
Kelly
Young mum

"It made me feel quite victimised so I stayed in quite a lot," she added.

"You want to celebrate being a mum every minute and yet it's really hard to do that when you are being judged so much."

Carly's friend Kelly and her baby boy Noah often get unwanted attention too.

"Random people on the bus and on the street say horrible comments like 'I shouldn't have a kid so young' or ask if I'm on benefits when I have a job and go to college," she said.

"People don't understand that just because we are young and we've had our kids it doesn't mean we are not doing anything with our lives.

"If we had our kids in our thirties people would say we are too old, so no one wins."

Kelly and her son Noah
Image caption Kelly says her and her son Noah get unwanted attention

Philippa Newis works for Gingerbread, the biggest charity to deal exclusively with single parents in England and Wales.

"We've been with young parents when complete strangers have told them they are told they are 'disgusting' for having a baby," she said.

Teenage conception rates

    • The under-18 conception rate for 2012 is the lowest since 1969 at 27.9 conceptions per thousand women aged 15-17.
    • The estimated number of conceptions to women aged under 18 fell to 27,834 in 2012 compared with 31,051 in 2011, a decrease of 10%.
    • In 2012 there were an estimated 884,748 conceptions to women of all ages, compared with 909,109 in 2011, a decrease of 2.7%.
    • Conception rates in 2012 increased for women aged 35 and over and decreased for women under 35.

"Some young mums don't want to go out of their house because they feel like they are being judged by members of their community," she added.

"If you are told you are disgusting for having a baby you are shamed into silence."

Jacob Tas, interim chief executive of the charity Action for Children, said: "Some of the teenage mums and dads we support have their own sad stories to tell of being stigmatised or patronised in the street by people who make unfair judgements about them.

"Being a parent can be tough enough without the added fear of random judgement or abuse when you're going about your day."

Experts believe discrimination towards young mums stems from the misconception that teen pregnancy in the UK is much higher than it actually is.

Philippa Newis
Image caption Philippa Newis from Gingerbread says young mothers can be treated badly

A survey by research company Ipsos MORI last summer found the public still overestimates teen pregnancy levels by 25 times.

The Office for National Statistics estimates the UK has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.

The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England, which ran from 1999 to 2010, did help to reduce the under-18 conception rate to its lowest level for 40 years to 31,051.

The latest figures from Public Health England show the conception rate among under 18 year olds dropped by 9.8% to 27.7 per 1000 in 2012, an all-time low for England.

The strategy aimed to prevent pregnancy before women were ready by improving contraception access, sex education in school and encouraging a more open relationship between parents and children.

It's important professionals understand that and make them [young parent] feel comfortable
Alison Hadley
Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange

The strategy also provided support to young people who did choose to become parents by educating midwives and health visitors about the stigma they may face and how to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Alison Hadley led the scheme and now runs the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange.

"I think young mums and dads often feel like they are being looked at in a judgemental way and that's why it's important professionals understand that and make them feel comfortable," she said.

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