Number of mothers aged over 45 treble in a decade
The number of women having babies over the age of 45 has more than trebled in just over a decade as couples delay having children for career and financial reasons, according to official figures.While the prevalence of teenage mothers has dropped dramatically since the 1990s, older mothers have reached the highest level seen in recent times.
A new analysis of birth records for 2011 published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirms a major shift towards women having babies later in life, with even mothers in their early 20s becoming increasingly rare.
They show that less a quarter of births England and Wales in 2011 involved mothers under the age of 25 – half the proportion seen in 1970 and the lowest level since records began in 1938.
At the same time women over the age of 35 accounted for a fifth of the total in maternity wards, almost four times as many as in 1977, while those having babies over the age of 45 dramatically higher than a generation ago.
The ONS said the shift reflected a greater emphasis by women on building a career before having children couples with the impact of fertility treatment as well greater instability in relationships.
The figures also show the number of children born outside of marriage reaching a record high of 47.2 per cent.
Four out of 10 mothers over the age of 45 were also unmarried. Only 25 years earlier, almost eight out of 10 children were born to parents who had tied the knot.
But, significantly, the figures also hinted at major changes in the attitudes of fathers.
Birth registration records show that over the same period the number of men signalling a desire to play a part in the lives of children when they are not in a relationship with the mother has more than doubled.
Overall there were 723,913 live births in England and Wales in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available.
A total of 1,832 babies were born to mothers over the age of 45 in 2011, almost three times the number as recently as the year 2000.
The figures bear witness to the impact of IVF, indicated by a marked rise in the number of women in their late 40s having twins or triplets.
In 1989, just three women in England and Wales had a multiple birth, a figure which was to increase more than thirty-fold in 20 years.
An analysis of birth registrations showed that almost a third of births were registered to couples living together but not married, up from only 10 per cent in 1986.
But more than one in 10 births were registered to parents who lived at separate addresses but were prepared to share responsibility.
That is three and a half time the level seen in the mid 1980s.
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