Awareness: Better-educated teens means fewer teen pregnancies. *File photo
Awareness: Better-educated teens means fewer teen pregnancies. *File photo

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18: The number of babies being born in Bermuda has dropped dramatically in the last two years, the Bermuda Sun can reveal.

‘New arrivals’ at the hospital have fallen by nearly 25 per cent from four years ago, according to the latest statistics.

Tough economic times and the departure of guest workers could be major factors behind the decrease.

But experts say a big drop in -teenage pregnancies, brought about by better sex education programmes, has also contributed to the drop in the number of births on the island.

Before 2010, well over 800 births were recorded at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital almost every year, with a peak of 863 births in the 2007/08 financial year.

But there has been a sharp decline in the number of births ever since, and just 622 babies were born at hospital during the 2011/12 fiscal year.

And the figure for the 2012/13 could be even lower as just 476 births have been recorded between April 1 and December 19, 2012.

Craig Simmons, a senior economics lecturer at Bermuda College, said: “Immigration probably has something to do with this drop.

“A lot of people have left the island in the last couple of years and foreign workers have returned home.

“Then there are economic considerations because a child is a major expense and people may be reticent to have children when they do not have jobs or when they are struggling to get by.

“A decline in the number of births like this is not really surprising given what has been going on in Bermuda.”

Over the last couple of years Teen Services has seen a significant drop in the number of pregnant young women being referred.

In 2009 the charity dealt with 29 pregnancies while in 2011 that figure had dropped to 18.

Michelle Wade, director of Teen Services, told the Bermuda Sun: “We have definitely seen a drop in the number of young pregnant women being referred to us.

“We used to get between 35 and 40 teenage women come into us, whereas we are in the teens now.

“It is obviously good news and means the message is getting across.

“We do a lot of work in the schools and that process of educating our young women has really started to pay dividends.

“We have noticed a steady decline in teen pregnancies over the last 10 years.”

Sheelagh Cooper from the Coalition for the Protection of Children added: “It is hard to tell whether the recent downward trend in births is a reflection of the recent exodus of non Bermudians or reflects a change in fertility patterns among the local population.

“Maybe it is a bit of both. The good news is that we have definitely seen a drop in teenage pregnancies which has been consistent over the last few years.

“The coalition has made education about family planning a priority over the past  two years both in our focus groups with the women that we serve and also the partnership that we have with the women’s clinic so that women that cannot afford birth control can come to us and we will pay.”