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17 July 2014

UK: Average age of motherhood reaches 30 for first time

New data from the Office for National Statistics indicates the continued trend towards older motherhood, and a fall in the birth rate.

The ONS report, Births in England and Wales, 2013, shows that:

• The average age of motherhood has continued to increase reaching 30 years for the first time in 2013. This is an increase from 29.8 in 2012.

• Women aged 30-34 currently have the highest fertility of any age group.

• The total fertility rate has decreased from 1.94 children in 2012 to 1.85 children per woman in 2013. The number of live births has decreased by 4.3% since 2012 – from 729,674 births in 2012 to 698,512 live births in 2013. This fall represents a change to the increasing numbers of births that has been reported each year since a low in 2001, with the exception of a 0.3% fall in 2009.

• In 2013, fertility decreased in all age groups. The greatest declines were among younger women, with fertility rates decreasing in women aged under 20 and 20-24 by 13% and 8.9% respectively.

• The smallest decreases in fertility were for women aged 35-39 and 40 and over (decreases of 1.3% and 0.7% respectively).

• Despite these small declines in 2013, the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over has nearly trebled since 1991 (a rise of 134%) while for women aged 35-39 fertility has increased by 84% over this period.

• The stillbirth rate fell to 4.7 per thousand total births, from 4.9 in 2012.

• Over a quarter (26.5%) of live births were to mothers born outside the UK; a small increase compared with 25.9% in 2012.

• In 2013, nearly half of all babies were born outside marriage/civil partnership (47.4%), compared with 47.5% in 2012 and 41.4% in 2003. This continues the long-term rise in the percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership, which is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

“Overall the fertility rate has decreased, with the most significant declines seen in younger women. The average age of mothers in this country has hit 30 for the first time as many women are deciding to start their families later in life. UK mothers are now on average older than women elsewhere in the world when they have their first baby. There may be many reasons for this, including the time it takes to achieve educational and professional development, as well as financial security – and it may also be a reflection of how seriously couples take the responsibility of having children in the 21st century.

“We need to support women’s choices to have children at the age that is right for them. We certainly need policies in place that enable women to better combine family and working life, and in particular ensure that younger mothers don’t suffer setbacks.  While pregnancy and birth in older women may present slightly different challenges for healthcare professionals, the answer is not to cajole women into having babies before they are ready but to ensure our family planning and maternity services are set up to cater for the changing needs and choices of women today.”

Births in England and Wales, 2013, Office for National Statistics, 16 July 2014.

bpas comment on ONS report Births in England and Wales 2013,16 July 2014

Also read:

Analysis: What’s the problem with older mothers? This Q&A reviews the scientific and medical debates about later motherhood, seeking a balance between understanding the biological barriers to having babies in later life, and the lived reality – that many women do have healthy pregnancies in their late thirties. It situates this discussion in its wider social context, and indicates the policy implications that might flow from a trend towards later maternal age. Reproductive Review, 3 February 2014