TV shows credited with fall in pregnancies

STRUGGLE DEPICTED: Reality show 16 and Pregnant may be helping reduce teenage pregnancies.
STRUGGLE DEPICTED: Reality show 16 and Pregnant may be helping reduce teenage pregnancies.

Once blamed for glamorising children having babies, teen pregnancy reality shows are now credited with a drop in New Zealand's teenage pregnancy rates.

A new report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee suggested shows like 16 and Pregnant might deter unwanted pregnancies by depicting the struggle young people faced when raising children.

The show, and other spin-offs, chronicle the struggles girls face when they become pregnant while still in high school.

It also suggested social media peer pressure against being a young mother, and increased contraception use might also have contributed to the falling rates.

Last year 4247 teenagers gave birth - down 387 from 2010, Statistics New Zealand figures show.

Teenage abortion rates fell as well, down 17 per cent from 2010.

Family Planning national medical adviser Christine Roke said her organisation had supported the broadcast of reality television series highlighting the struggles teenaged parents faced.

She was delighted by the report's suggestion the shows could be having a positive effect.

"Reality TV is a great form of education," Dr Roke said.

"What is striking about the report is that it is the younger age group that seem to be dropping, which is great news, because they are particularly vulnerable when it comes to handling unintended pregnancies."

Several studies, including a 2010 research paper on cosmetic surgery shows, out of Rutgers University in New Jersey, have shown reality television viewing could significantly influence people's attitudes and decisions.

Dr Roke said Family Planning had recently seen a "huge" uptake in the use of long-acting birth control methods such as contraceptive implants, which could be a factor in the drop in unintended conceptions.

It had also become much more socially acceptable for teenagers to seek family planning and contraceptive advice.

New Zealand had the second highest rate of teenage pregnancies among developed countries.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee report, made public this week, also noted the general abortion rate was down as well, falling to a 12-year low.


16 and Pregnant

MTV's original teen-pregnancy show is now in its fourth season in the United States, with each episode following a different mother during her pregnancy and in the first months after the baby is born. Broadcast in New Zealand on Sky's MTV Channel 14.

Teen Mom

Following the popularity of 16 and Pregnant, MTV launched a spin-off that focuses on four teenage mums from the original show and the first years of their children's lives. Teen Mom just concluded its fourth and final series, and launched another spin-off, Teen Mom 2. Broadcast in New Zealand on Sky's MTV Channel 14.

My Teen is Pregnant and so am I

US channel TLC jumped on the trend this year with a reality show following two families, the Forbes and the Phillips, where the mothers and their teenage daughters are both pregnant at the same time.

Underage and Pregnant

Similar to Teen Mom, this British reality TV series follows pregnant school-age mums and dads as they give birth and tackle the first few months of their child's life. The show ran for three seasons on the BBC.

The Baby Borrowers

This reality challenge takes teenage couples and appoints them to care first for a young baby, then a toddler, pre-teen, teenager and elderly person, each for three days. The show ran for one series in Britain, and one further series on American screens. Broadcast in New Zealand in 2007 on TV2.

The Dominion Post