The Guardian of Britain is reporting that the fertility rate of women aged 40 and above is higher now than that of women under that age of 20 for the first time since 1947. Data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that women over 40 years old had the largest percentage increase (3.4%) in fertility rates in 2015. In that same time frame, the younger age group (20 years and younger) had the largest percentage decrease (7.1%), continuing a decline that has been taking place since 1999.
A statistician for the ONS, Elizabeth McLaren said: “The trend for women to have babies at older ages continued in 2015. Over the last 40 years, the percentage of live births to women aged 35 and over has increased considerably. Women aged 40 and over now have a higher fertility rate than women aged under 20. This was last recorded in the 1940s.”
The report went on to explain the trend of women having children later in life:
In most developed countries, women have been increasingly delaying childbearing to later in life, which has resulted in rising fertility rates among older women.
This may be due to a number of factors such as increased female participation in higher education and the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty and housing factors.
Rising fertility rates at older ages have affected the average age of mothers, which has been increasing since 1975, reaching 30.3 years in 2015.
Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, responded to the report, stating that these numbers fly against “media scare stories that women’s fertility ‘falls off a cliff at 35’”. She also believes that the numbers highlight a big decrease in teen pregnancies. She cites a number of reasons for this decline, including young women choosing higher education and the influence of social media as alternatives for how young people spend their time.
Interestingly, Rosalind Bragg, Director of Maternity Action, believes that the numbers aren’t terribly surprising. She feels that many parents delay pregnancy due to a combination of financial pressure, job insecurity and declining maternity benefits. “Many women would happily have babies at a younger age if they were confident their employer would be supportive and their finances added up,” she added.
The full story can be found here and is very thought-provoking in consideration of the conventional wisdom that fertility declines in a woman’s mid-30’s.