by Al Williams
Young women appear to be better informed about pregnancy, the health system, abortion and government benefits, a national spokeswoman for pregnancy services says.
Pregnancy Counselling Services spokeswoman Sandy Simpson’s comments follow the release of figures this week showing abortion rates in New Zealand had dropped to their lowest level in 25 years.
The general abortion rate – abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 – was 13.5 per 1000 women in 2016, down from 14.2 in 2015, the latest Statistics NZ figures show.
Statistics reported abortion rates for younger women had fallen significantly in recent years, whereas the rate had stayed the same for older women.
In Canterbury, abortion figures had averaged 2000 per annum between 2004 and 2009 then steadily dropped to 1604 in 2016.
Ms Simpson said several factors had contributed to the drop.
“We wonder whether there is more feedback now, from friends, mothers, counsellors and the scientific community, about the after-effects of abortion.
“Gone is the naive attitude that if a doctor offers something it must be painless and trouble-free.”
Among teens there had been a “strong downward trend concerning abortion”, Ms Simpson said.
“This may be partly influenced by the opening of more teen parent units, which allow a teen to manage both study and parenthood.”
The abortion rate among 20- to 24-year-olds remained the highest among the various groups “probably due to the stage they’re at regarding tertiary education, first jobs, new or transient relationships and living away from home”.
“Among women settled into work, the reality of paid parental leave being extended to 18 weeks, the proliferation of private and public daycare facilities, the normalisation of mothers working and using paid daycare have meant that it’s easier to take some time out from work to have a child then return to the workforce,” Ms Simpson said.
“Young women appear to be slightly better informed about pregnancy, the health system, abortion and government benefits, often through access to the internet, so we are generally having to provide less in the way of information.”
However, there was still a “great need for discussion, a sounding board, emotional support and practical help for those whose parents are in another town or country, whose friends are caught up in their careers and who lack personal support while making a decision, resolving a relationship or coping with sickness during pregnancy”, Ms Simpson said.
South Canterbury District Health Board maternal child and youth manager Teresa Back recommended consulting a midwife or GP as early as possible in pregnancy.
Ultrasound, blood testing, infection testing and counselling services were available in South Canterbury, she said.