Women now giving birth later than ever

The changing face of British society has been highlighted by figures that show women are giving birth later than ever.

The changing face of British society has been highlighted by figures that show women are giving birth later than ever.

Wales has also become the first country in the United Kingdom to have more children born outside marriage than within wedlock with 50.3 per cent of all births there last year being to unmarried women.

The figures were in a report released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics. The Populations Trends study show the average age of a woman giving birth is now 29.4 years old, compared to 26.2 in 1971, the year when records began and the lowest since then. The average age of first births in 27.4.

Experts said there was an ever-widening gap between fertility rates along social class lines, with wealthier women waiting until their 40s to have children while the birth rate among the youngest age groups is mainly among poorer mothers.

Fertility rates have fallen dramatically over the past 50 years, according to the detailed analysis. Demographers are warning that an average family size of 2.1 children is needed for the population to replace itself naturally butbirth patterns for 2003 indicate that the average woman now has 1.73 children, a rise of 4.8 per cent on the previous year but still below the replacement figure.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said: "There have been a lot of concerns about the falling birth rate and that is partly because it is so difficult for women to have a baby in today's society, in relation to things like work and childcare."

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