New numbers on teen pregnancy rates in New Brunswick show the province had the biggest jump in the number of pregnancies between 2006 and 2010.

During that time, pregnancy rates for girls aged 15 to 19 saw a 40 per cent increase in New Brunswick over a previous study period between 2001 and 2005.

The data comes from a study released Tuesday by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECC) in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.

New Brunswick wasn't the only Atlantic province to see a rise. Between 2006 and 2010 teen pregnancy rates rose by 35.7 per cent in Newfoundland, and 17.4 per cent in Nova Scotia.

All of these increases are well above the national teen pregnancy rate that rose just 1.1 per cent during the most recent study period.

Prince Edward Island was the only Atlantic province to see a decrease, with the number of teen pregnancies down two per cent over the results obtained from the 2001 to 2005 study. Though, researchers point out that sample sizes from P.E.I. are relatively small compared with larger provinces.

Lucia O'Sullivan, a psychology professor at the University of New Brunswick and Canada research chair in adolescent sexual health behaviour, said teen pregnancy rates are linked to the socioeconomic strength of a province.

"What we do find is that the provinces that have the most dramatic increases tend to be the ones that have poorer socioeconomic forecasts and profiles," said O'Sullivan.

"When times are good, young people tend to have a future orientation that makes childbearing more expensive in a way and so they will delay having children and the costs of having children at such a young age is higher — especially when they have such strong and positive expectations for education and employment," she said.

"When times are worse we find that the motivation to avoid childbearing tends to be lower ... We tend to find there is less effort to avoid childbearing and that is in large part because the costs are lower for them in terms of their future orientation."

However, O'Sullivan stresses that these teens are usually not actively trying to become pregnant.

Long-term national trends show steady decline

Overall, the trend in teens getting pregnant shows a steady decline since records were first recorded in 1974.

Longer term, the Canadian teen pregnancy rate dropped 20.3 per cent from 2001 to 2010.

The SIECC study did not specifically look at the reasons behind the jump across most of Atlantic Canada but linked to a recent U.S. study that looked at woman seeking abortions.

The researchers in the American study found that only 11 per cent of women seeking an abortion used contraception.

When those who didn't use contraception were asked why, 42 per cent said that they did not think they would become pregnant, 40 per cent said they had a hard time getting contraception and 38 per cent said they hadn't planned on having sex.

Preventing unwanted teen pregnancies

The SIECC study outlined a few ways to prevent unwanted teen pregnancy:

- Developing more youth programs for teens.

- Ensuring teens have access to affordable and effective contraception.

- Providing sexual health education for teens.

"Access to sustainable birth control would be fantastic, teaching people how to obtain birth control, also good, but really working on the motivation and understanding the costs in some ways of having children at a young age — what that can involve," said O'Sullivan.

"New Brunswick is a very important case because we have so many young people that have migrated away in search of jobs, and who's left?" she asked.

"The people that are left are ones who either didn't feel they could leave or wanted to leave or had the same opportunities available to them."

She said, though, these teen girls are generally not making a conscious effort to have babies.

"They don't want to be young parents but we do find that the efforts and practices towards preventing that are often worse — particularly for those who have less of an orientation towards a very positive future," said O'Sullivan.

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