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Teenage births 'at lowest level since 1946'

Published 15/07/2015

A total of 25,977 women under the age of 20 had babies in England and Wales last year, figures show
A total of 25,977 women under the age of 20 had babies in England and Wales last year, figures show

The number of teenagers giving birth is at its lowest level in nearly 70 years, official figures have shown.

Some 25,977 women under the age of 20 had babies in England and Wales last year - the fewest since the year 1946, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

A total of 695,233 births were recorded in 2014 - a fall of 3,279 on the previous year.

Some 27% of births were by mothers born outside the UK - a slight rise on 26.5% in 2013, the ONS said.

Almost half of all births in 2014 (47.5%) were to unmarried mothers - the highest figure since records began in 1938.

The average age of mothers giving birth last year - at 30.2 years old - was also the highest since records began.

The number of births by women under 20 years old has fallen from 29,136 in 2013 and a recent peak of 45,509 in 2006. The 2014 figure is the lowest since 1946, when 24,816 births were recorded.

In separate figures, the ONS revealed 501,424 deaths were registered in England and Wales in 2014 - a fall of 5,366 the previous year.

Cancer was the "most common broad cause of death", the ONS said, accounting for 29% of deaths registered. Circulatory diseases, such as heart disease and strokes, resulted in 27% of deaths registered.

The total number of births is 4% down on its recent peak in 2011 and 21% down on its post-war peak in 1947.

The number of babies born to mothers aged 40 and over (29,010) was down slightly (1%) on the recent high of 2011, but 16% below the post-war peak of 1947.

The ONS report said: "In most developed countries women have been increasingly delaying childbearing to later in life, which has resulted in increases in the mean age at first birth and rising fertility rates among older women.

"Although fertility rates for women aged 40 and above have generally been rising fast, fertility among women in their 40s is still considerably lower than for women in their 30s. Women aged 30 to 34 currently have the highest fertility of any age group."

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: " The decline in teenage births is noteworthy.

"This is due in part to the huge improvements we've seen in contraception advice and services for younger women, with straightforward access to abortion services when their chosen method lets them down.

"Women are often warned about the dangers of leaving it 'too late' to try for a family, and this data confirms that far from facing a fertility cliff-edge at age 35, women still have a good chance of conceiving.

"We hope this provides some reassurance to them."

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said the figures highlighted the need for funding for new midwives in the NHS.

She said: "Births are becoming more complex as the average age of mothers increases, and as climbing levels of obesity mean many women need more support and care.

"This places additional and significant pressures on maternity services.

"Midwives want to give these and all women the best levels of care."

The ONS said recent Government changes to the welfare system may have influenced the fall in the number of births last year.

It said: "Older women may feel less inclined to delay having children than younger women, while at any age childbearing choices may be affected by parents' current financial or housing position.

"Reforms by the coalition Government to simplify the welfare system, which have resulted in some significant changes to benefits, may have influenced decisions around childbearing."

Some "significant changes" to benefits announced in 2011 and 2012 included reduced housing benefit - dubbed the "bedroom tax" - for those living in a property deemed to be larger than they need, the ONS said.

The coalition government also introduced a benefit cap limiting the total amount families can claim to £26,000 and new rules which meant children under 10 are expected to share a room, as are children under 16 of the same gender.

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