THE Horsham and Northern Grampians municipalities still have some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Victoria despite rates decreasing across the region.
Most recent data from the Victorian Women's Heath Atlas, collected in 2015, shows the number of births to females aged between 15 to 19 years by local government area.
Northern Grampians Shire Council has the eighth highest teenage birth rate in Victoria, while Horsham Rural City Council is tenth.
The state-wide average is 9.4 births per 1000 females aged 15 to 19 years, which is significantly lower than the 2012 rate of 14.3.
The Northern Grampians teenage birth rate was 19.67 births per 1000 population in 2015. This was lower than the 2012 rate of 22.7.
Horsham had a birth rate of 17.43 births per 1000 population. This is a decrease from the 2012 rate of 27.1.
Hindmarsh shire has the 12th highest rates at 16.34 births, Buloke shire has the 14th highest with 16 births and Yarriambiack shire has the 21st highest rates at 12.56 births.
Ararat Rural City is the only Wimmera municipality below the state average with 7.96 births. There was no data available for West Wimmera shire.
It comes after Horsham council released its draft Early Years Plan 2019-23 last month.
The plan addressed the high level of teenage pregnancy rates in the municipality.
It used 2012 data and said Horsham had the third highest rate in the state. However, this is not true according to the most recent statistics from 2015. The council has been contacted for comment.
Women's Health Grampians chief executive Rose Durey said a lack of sexual health services in the Wimmera affected the high rates of teenage pregnancy.
"It's not just in the Wimmera, but really there's a lack of services across regional Victoria," she said.
"Teenage pregnancy rates have been consistently high in the region for quite some time. I think it's an indication that there is room for improvement in what sexual health services are available to women, not just young women."
Women's Health Grampians has a Horsham-based project worker who works with GPs regarding reproductive choices for women in the region.
"We also do some work with nurses in schools in the region, educating students about sexual health," she said.
Ms Durey said, while sexual health services were limited in the region, she recommended people use the 1800 My Optionshotline (1800 696 784) or website to see where their closest services were.
Wimmera Uniting's support for families and community manager Louise Netherway said the services offered support to expecting mothers.
"No matter what the rate of teen pregnancies, our work and experience with young parents recently suggests there is still a great need in supporting this vulnerable group across the Wimmera," she said.
"At Uniting we provide several supports for young parents. Our integrated family service worker provides support through the Young Parent Program at Connect Ed and we also run a regular young mum's parenting support group."
She said the Early Parenting Support Program worked with new parents who felt like they needed extra support.
"We help them to identify the supports they need and link them into the appropriate services," she said.
"We provide practical advice and assistance to enhance parenting and work together with parents and other service providers to develop parenting plans with a focus on the healthy development of the unborn child."
Wimmera Uniting is also working with the By Five Wimmera Southern Mallee Early Years Project and Federation Uni on a research project identifying the gaps and needs of young mums in the Wimmera.
Ms Netherway encouraged expecting or new parents to contact Wimmera Uniting on 5362 4000.
Horsham's Hamilton Street Medical Clinic offers medical abortion, hormonal contraception, long acting reversible contraception, STI screenings and counselling.
Wimmera Base Hospital offers emergency contraception, long acting reversible contraception, STI screenings and counselling.
The hospital has two birthing suites at its Yandilla Ward. A spokeswoman said one baby on average was born at the hospital every day.
Ballarat Community Health has outreach services in Ararat once a week. It offers medical abortion via telehealth, hormonal contraception, long acting reversible contraception and STI screenings.
Ararat Medical Centre offers Emergency Contraception hormonal contraception, long acting reversible contraception, vasectomy, tubal ligation, counselling and STI screenings.
Horsham College runs a young parents program which provides flexible learning options for students who are either pregnant or have children.
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