Government advisors have announced that schools should run antenatal classes for their pregnant pupils. They claim the classes would help pregnant schoolgirls who were 'too embarrassed' to visit their doctor.
Critics of the plans say the move would 'normalise' teen pregnancies.
Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate for the whole of Western Europe, with more than 41,000 babies being born to girls under 18 every year.
NICE - the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence - claims that offering the classes in areas where teenage pregnancy is most prevalent will help young girls deal with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. It says that currently, younger women are scared of visiting their GP for fear of being judged by the receptionists or other patients.
The chairperson of the panel who produced the guidelines, Rhona Hughes, said: 'We did find examples in the literature of good practice where clinics were held in schools and young women were more likely to access care. Teenagers can feel embarrassed going to clinics where there are older women.'
The deputy chief executive of NICE, Dr Gillian Leng, said it would not be appropriate for all schools to run the sessions, only those in authorities with high rates of teenage pregnancy.
Areas that could be targeted include Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, in south London, and Birmingham, Nottingham, Blackpool and Hartlepool.
Anastasia de Waal, deputy director of the think-tank Civitas, critisized the scheme, saying: 'There simply isn't time for ante-natal classes to be held in secondary school. It is extremely important that teenage mums have all the opportunity they can and that nothing encroaches on their learning. Schools are simply not equipped to provide these services and there isn't room for them. We need to address the fact that they feel embarrassed to go to their GP or local ante-natal classes - not start providing them at school. There is also the argument that providing ante-natal classes at school normalises teenage pregnancy.'
What do you think?
Is school the place for antenatal classes?
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