Teenagers on the North-West Coast are getting pregnant at a much higher rate than the rest of the country.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that young women in Devonport had the highest birth rates on the NW Coast, at 23.5 per 1000 births in 2015.
West Coast teens were close behind at 20 per 1000 and young Burnie / Ulverstone women had a birth rate of 19.1.
However young women in Brighton were conceiving at double the rate, with 47 teenage births per 1000 births, the south east coast had a rate of 43.3 teenage births and Hobart’s north west outdid Devonport at 28.5 teenage births.
The national average was 12.8, with Tasmania’s overall rate sitting at 15.4.
Teenage pregnancies are often linked to low birth weights and later health problems for babies.
One of the factors causing babies under 2500 gms to be born is where the mother smokes during pregnancy.
The report found that only two places in Australia had higher teen pregnancy smoking rates than Tasmania, namely Gippsland, where 45 per cent of teen mums smoked, and West Victoria where just on 43 per cent smoked.
In Tasmania, the smoking rate was almost 42 per cent, compared with the national average of 33 per cent.
This was a factor in young women giving birth to children who were under weight. Low birth weights featured in 10.9 per cent of teen births, compared with the national average of 9.8 per cent.
Responding to the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the state some years ago, the government introduced the Tasmanian Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategic Framework 2013 – 2016. The strategy aimed to cut the rate of unplanned pregnancies, especially among teenagers.
Reducing unplanned teen pregnancy was one of the strategy’s five priority actions.
The NW rates are in contrast to the rising age of motherhood across Australia. In 2015, the average age of women at their first birth was 28.9 years