• 73 girls aged 15 years old or under became mothers
  • 11 babies were born to 14 year old girls, and
  • 57 babies were born to 15 year old girls.

There has been a significant jump in the number of teenage girls giving birth in Western Australia. The WA Birth Registry shows five girls aged just 13 became mothers in 2009. This is an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous year. It is alarming that many of these girls are scarcely out of primary school.

In her book “What’s happening to our girls?” Maggie Hamilton makes the observation that “often girls see teenage pregnancy as a way of giving themselves the nurture they’ve missed out on. For those few short months of pregnancy, the attention is on them. One school counsellor said ‘Their expectations about having a baby are so unrealistic’.”

Robyn McSweeney, Child Protection Minister confirmed this, “(these girls) are in no way emotionally mature enough to cope with the birthing process let alone the realities of looking after the demands of a baby,”.

She outlined many organisations offering help to young WA mothers including Parenting WA which offers a 24hour helpline to young mothers, families and friends. They can also organise one-on-one support for teenage parents at home. Parenting WA has an extensive online library which covers many parenting topics and gives helpful information to teenage mothers.

Parenting WA services are free and no referral is needed. Manager Donna Legge urged parents to communicate openly to their children about sex from a young age.

“Sex education should not be confined to the school system,” Ms Legge said. “It’s a very wise thing for parents to speak to their children honestly about relationships and sexuality.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.