As the campaign to cut teenage pregnancy takes a major step forward today with the launch of an action plan aimed at the young, Women's Editor Christen Pears talks to one teenage mum about her experiences.

EVERYTHING was perfectly planned. With ten GCSEs, Kathleen Moss was in her first year at college studying A Level English, law, history and general studies. College was going well and good grades were in the pipeline, then she would be able to head off to Cambridge University.

After the degree would come teacher training, then a job as a primary school teacher. Aged 32, established in a good career, she would start to think about having a family.

Everything was going to plan, but one thing the teenager hadn't really planned for was falling in love and she certainly hadn't expected to be pregnant having just turned 18.

"I'd had a pregnancy scare earlier in the year and it really upset me," recalls Kathleen, who lives in Darlington. "So we had been extra careful. I didn't feel pregnant and there was no morning sickness. I was irregular anyway so wasn't too worried about being late. When I finally took a test I was really shocked to find I was pregnant."

She thought about the various options. "But I couldn't seriously consider a termination and certainly wouldn't give my baby away for adoption. So I decided to keep her."

It was time to redraw her plans. "It was scary but I was going to stay at college. My due date was February when I was also down to sit some exams. So the college rearranged those and the whole lot was planned, until I was in a bus crash and I injured my back."

The accident ended her college dreams and she decided to concentrate on her pregnancy. "The health visitors and midwives were brilliant and I know now that there are lots of things I could have accessed, like the Bears support group, but no one told me about them at the time," says Kathleen, now 21.

"Because I was a bit older and had a partner I think people thought I could cope. The pregnancy was fine and I was so proud of my labour - just three and three-quarter hours - I absolutely loved it. But after the birth, we were on our own. A lot of your friends drop you, most don't bother because you can't go out and just leave you alone with your baby. I felt so alone, it was horrible."

The Darlington Local Teenage Pregnancy Strategy aims to put an end to that sort of social exclusion, that's if it can't prevent an unplanned conception in the first place. Hailed as the "joined-up approach" to the issue, it involves all the statutory bodies, community groups and voluntary organisations.

To prevent unwanted pregnancies, it aims to provide youngsters with better sex and relationship education. When accidents do happen it is there to pick up the pieces, making a host of services more accessible to the nearly 100 teenagers a year in the borough who do become pregnant.

"I think the whole idea has been there for a long time but accessing it before was the problem," says Kathleen. "Now they are really pushing it in your face so it is noticed. The strategy helps teenagers know how to find the right professionals."

Teenage mums have even helped design the new service. "They've been getting us involved. They asked us to go to seminars and what the funding should be spent on. We have said for years there should be a night support worker, for instance. Most of the girls don't have family and can't get out at night when the baby is in bed. If there is an emergency or if you need just five minutes peace from the baby crying, you really need someone at night. Now they are looking to see what they can do about it. They have really taken our ideas into account."

With all this support and advice, Kathleen's plans are back on track. She has been in touch with Darlington College of Technology to find out about courses and child minding services for her two-year-old daughter Charli. She now has high hopes of becoming a teacher after all.

"If there is a message in my experiences, it is not to give up on your plans," she says. "It doesn't matter whether it is taking a degree or getting a job, you need to keep doing something. You must not give up on your plans of having a normal life."