A new study has found that nearly a fifth of sexually active teenage girls have been pregnant at least once before reaching the age of 18.

The Department for Education conducted the research with 8,500 teenagers, eighty per cent of whom said they were sexually active, meaning that overall 16 per cent of all teenage girls have become pregnant at least once before reaching 18.

Of those who said they became pregnant 46 per cent said that they kept their baby while 36 per cent said they terminated their baby. Those that remained said they had a miscarriage.

Most of those who became pregnant said that they only had one pregnancy before reaching 18, however 18 per cent admitted to becoming pregnant twice while three per cent became pregnant three or more times.

Despite reaching a 20-year low in teenage pregnancies over 39,000 abortions took place last year in England and Wales among 15-19 year olds and Britain still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe.

Gill Frances, chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, said, "We need to do more to help young people get easy access to reliable long-acting contraception and to identify and support those most at risk of early pregnancy."