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Teenage births fall by 35pc in 10 years

TEENAGE births in Ireland have fallen by more than a third over a 10-year period, new figures show.

And almost all teenagers are now using contraception.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of babies born in the Republic increased by 29pc -- but teen births have dropped by 35pc. Just 3pc of all births are now to mothers under 19.

The State, meanwhile, has the highest birth rate in the EU.

Dr Stephanie O'Keeffe, director of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, said sex education was partly responsibly for the change.

"The sustained decrease in the level of teenage births over a 10-year period is a very welcome trend and is impressive compared to international standards," Dr O'Keeffe told the Herald.

"The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme has implemented a wide range of relationships and sexuality education initiatives, while also providing support and assistance to young parents."

One such programme, called the Real Deal peer education project, includes teenage mothers going round to secondary schools to speak about their own experiences.

"Over the last 10 years we have seen improvements in relationships and sex education for young people in home, school and community settings."

She noted that Irish teens were aware of the importance of safe sex.

"New data from the Health Behaviour of School Aged Children report shows that almost all sexually active young people reported that they used contraception when they last had sexual intercourse (93pc used condoms)," she said.

"Over the past 10 years the average age of first sex has not decreased, it is 17 years, which is older than in other jurisdictions."