Teachers back call for pregnancy clinics in schools

By introducing antenatal classes, schools would be ideally placed to help pregnant teenage girls, say teaching unions…

Schools should run antenatal classes for pregnant pupils, Government advisers said yesterday. The courses would reach out to gymslip mums too embarrassed to see their GP or local clinics, they claimed.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, a major health watchdog, said research showed pregnant women under 20 often felt excluded from antenatal care in hospitals. It suggests midwives go into schools to carry out health checks and offer advice.

The services provide advice on nutriton, staying healthy while pregnant, carry out routine tests and monitor the pregnancy while in the latter stages, and classes may be provided to prepare the woman for the birth.

A lack of good antenatal care can increase the risk of women dying from complications during pregnancy or after birth, with women living in areas of high deprivation in England five times more likely to die during pregnancy or after childbirth than women in more affluent areas.

Teachers today welcomed proposals with Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, stating that pregnant pupils risked abandoning their education. ‘If antenatal care in school can both keep girls in education and ensure that they and their babies are healthy, it should be welcomed,’ she said.

But critics claim that the health watchdog’s new initiative would ‘normalise’ gymslip pregnancies and make it more common than ever. Britain already has the highest rates in Western Europe, with more than 41,000 babies born to women under the age of 18 every year. That figure is twice as high as in Germany, three times the level of France and six times that of the Netherlands.

Although no British schools run antenatal classes at the moment, they have been held in classrooms in the U.S. since the early 1990s. Girls are told about labour, given advice on their diet and taught how to breast-feed.

What do you think of the new recommendations? Would you want your daughter to have access to antenatal classes at school? Or do you think it will just encourage more young girls to become pregnant because they think it’s ‘normal’?

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