This week, with the news that teenage pregnancy rates have once again hit a record low, we thought we’d focus on the teenagers our POWs (Pregnancy Outreach Workers) work with.
We’ve seen a slight drop in teen pregnancies in our client base over the last few years, which reflects the national picture. Around 15% of our POWS clients this year are aged 19 and under, compared to around 20% in the previous year. (We use the NICE classification of “teenage pregnancy”; that is, the date of conception was before mum’s 20th birthday.)
Our POW service covers many areas across the city, so we have teen clients across Birmingham, but we are specifically commissioned to work with pregnant women under 20 in Harborne, Kingstanding, Ladywood, Longbridge, Oscott, Quinton, Shard End and Tyburn.
According to a 2012 report from the Office for National Statistics:
Research shows that young women from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and those with poor educational outcomes are more likely to have a teenage pregnancy, while teenage mothers and their children are at increased risk of poverty and poor health. Historically, areas with high teenage conception rates have also had relatively high deprivation measures, such as unemployment rates, but this doesn’t mean that one factor causes the other. Other population characteristics such as ethnicity and educational attainment levels can have an impact.
Gateway Pregnancy Outreach Worker Angela Allen (pictured) often works with teenagers.
She said: “The work we do with our younger clients is slightly different, as you would expect. You really have to get on their level. Most are happy to work with the professional services suddenly surrounding them, but some are quite challenging and don’t want to engage at all, and it takes a POW to get through to them.
“There are specialist young person midwives, and many young pregnancies have to be fCAFed, so young people do have a lot of support, but it doesn’t always feel like that to them. Suddenly they are dealing with a lot of new information. Their POW is someone they can turn to if they’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
Caroline Mackie, POWS co-ordinator, agreed: “Sometimes clients will come to us if they haven’t quite understood, or taken in, everything they’ve been told by all the other agencies they’re dealing with. What’s different about POWS is that we’ve got a bit more time to go through everything with them and help them to understand.”
Angela continued, “A lot of the younger clients especially like the fact that we bring a tablet (an iPad-sized computer) with us, so that we can go online together and find out more information. There are a lot of really good resources available online, like Gingerbread’s Teenage parents’ benefits finder, so I’ll often sit down with my clients and we’ll use the tablet together.”
She added, “I was a young mum myself, so I remember what it was like going to classes and groups, and being in a room full of older women. You can feel quite isolated, despite being surrounded by people.”
Most teenagers are very keen to learn parenting skills and to gain confidence in holding and bathing a baby, so the POWs will help their clients to find suitable classes and make sure they can attend – often going along with them if necessary.
In the video below, students Hannah (not her real name) and Daba talk about how their POWs, Sharon and Shazia respectively, are arming them with as much information as possible for life after baby arrives, as well as giving that extra bit of emotional support.