Health

ONS: Mothers' average age hits 30

Mother and son Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Factors such as education may delay motherhood

The trend towards older motherhood is continuing - with the average age of mothers in England and Wales reaching 30 for the first time.

But average family size fell in a year from 1.94 children to 1.85.

The ONS report for 2013 said the number of babies born had decreased by 4.3% since 2012.

Mothers were now, on average, older than elsewhere in the world when they had their first baby, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said.

The statistics released on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics show:

  • The average age of mothers in 2013 increased to 30.0 years, compared with 29.8 years in 2012
  • More than a quarter (26.5%) of births were to mothers born outside the UK, compared with 25.9% in 2012
  • The smallest decreases in fertility were for women aged 35-39 and 40 and over
  • Despite these small declines in 2013, the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over has nearly trebled since 1991, while for women aged 35-39 fertility has increased by 84% over this period
  • The stillbirth rate fell in 2013, to 4.7 per 1,000 births, compared with 4.9 in 2012.

The ONS report said the average age of mothers had been increasing since 1975, with increasing numbers of women delaying childbearing.

It cited a number of possible factors:

  • increased participation in higher education
  • increased female participation in the labour force
  • the increasing importance of a career
  • the rising opportunity costs of childbearing
  • labour market uncertainty
  • housing factors
  • instability of partnerships

Commenting on the figures, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: "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."

Stillbirths falling

There were many reasons for this, she added, including the time it took to achieve educational and professional development, as well as financial security.

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said the fall in the stillbirth rate was "encouraging" but must be reduced further.

"Better continuity of care and enabling midwives to offer the right levels of support to women are key to continue pushing the number of stillbirths down."

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