What are the facts and figures behind pregnancy and childbirth in the UK at present, and how have they changed? Who is giving birth where, when and how? Online pharmacists Chemist 4 U has conducted an in-depth study to uncover all the available statistics within this field - read on to find out everything you need to know.
UK Pregnancy Statistics - Key Statistics
- Women in the UK are having children at a later stage of their life than their mothers were.
- The majority of women now become mothers between the ages of 30 and 34.
- The oldest woman to give birth naturally in the UK was 59. The youngest was 12.
- One in ten women fall pregnant while relying on the contraceptive pill.
- The number of women in their 30s having abortions has overtaken the number in their teens.
UK 2019 Pregnancy Statistics - Overview
As a result of our study, Chemist 4 U has discovered that there has been a significant change between the last generation to have children and the generation before that. As the result of what is believed by the Office for National Statistics to be a direct link between the number of women entering higher education and the time at which they choose to start a family, the majority of the UK’s female population are now becoming mothers later in life.
- The average woman is more likely to have just one child by the time she reaches her 30th birthday, while her parents would have had closer to two. The average number for that generation standing at 1.8 during this particular period of their lives.
- Since the early 90s, there has been a noticeable upward shift in the number of people giving birth after they turn 30, and a downturn in those giving birth before that time.
- For a large proportion of modern history, women in their mid to late 20s have seen the highest birth rate, but this was overtaken in the late 90s and early 2000s by mothers aged 30 to 34, who are now in the vast majority.
- The number of 35 to 39 year old mothers is also on the rise, overtaking those aged 20 to 24 in just the last few years.
- The average age of UK mothers now sits at 30.3 years old, and fathers at 33.3 years old.
- The age at which women become mothers for the first time still appears to be on the rise, with the average being 28.8 in 2016, a small but significant 0.2 of a year older than in 2015.
Women in Their 40s Are Now Having More Children than Women in Their Teens
While the term “birth rate” applies to the number of babies born within an entire community, the term “fertility rate” refers to the number of children a woman has in her lifetime.
The UK fertility rate has been steadily declining. By the close of 2017, the average number of children per mother had dropped for five consecutive years. At this point, the number decreased from 1.81 children per mother in 2016 to 1.76.
On the other hand, women who were born outside of the UK are steadily experiencing higher and higher birth rates. Between 1990 and 2017, this number grew by a considerable 28.4%.
In total, women now tend to give birth to 1.9 children on average throughout their lifetime, as opposed to the 2.2 children birthed by the previous generation. The Office of National Statistics believe that two factors have influenced this change:
- One is that fewer women are having children - whether due to medical factors or personal choice.
- And the other is that the number of teenage pregnancies within the UK is significantly reducing year on year.
Within the last five years, the number of women giving birth before the age of 20 has dropped below the number of women over 40 becoming mothers, and now stands at around 6%.
The UK is currently experiencing the lowest conception rate recorded since 2005, which is likely a direct result of one of the sectors of our population that had previously been having the most children - women aged between 20 and 24 years of age - suddenly seeing a swift decline in the numbers falling pregnant.
The Youngest and Oldest Women to Give Birth
According to the Telegraph, a British woman currently holds the global record for the oldest person to give natural birth to a child (without the aid of In Vitro Fertilisation or any other medical conception assistance). She was 59 years old when she gave birth to her son in 1997.
Our youngest mother was Tressa Middleton, who gave birth to a girl in 2006 at the age of 12, having become pregnant at 11 years old.
There have been reports of other UK-based individuals meeting or breaking these records, but the above are the two most clearly validated cases.
Pregnancy Age Statistics By Region
As of 2016, the largest number of individuals to give birth between the ages of 15 and 17 were found to be in Hyndburn and Middlesbrough, with 36.7 and 36.5 teenagers per thousand within this age bracket giving birth that year.
There were 51 conceptions in Hyndburn in total that year, and 90 in Middlesbrough.
Teen pregnancies have declined by around 60% over the last ten years, with the ONS considering factors such as more time spent with family and lower alcohol consumption to be the main causes of this.
One in Ten British Women Fall Pregnant While on the Contraceptive Pill
Of course, readily available contraception, including free options currently available on the NHS, have helped to significantly reduce the number of accidental pregnancies over the generations.
However, as of the year between 2017 and 2018 in England, 792,636 women were recorded to be using sexual and reproductive health services in order to receive contraceptive products or advice. This number actually represented a considerable decrease - to the tune of 16% - since the year between 2014 and 2015. There has also been a huge 32% fall in the provision of emergency contraceptive items over the past 10 years.
During 2017, 41% of English women were using reversible contraceptives, and 42% were using oral contraceptives. Since 2010, the NHS has been working to reduce the number of “user-dependent” contraceptives in circulation - such as pills and condoms - and trying to persuade women to opt for long-acting options such as the injection or the implant.
According to the Pearl Index, a record kept by the BBC relating to the number of contraceptive options that fail per 100 women-years of exposure. These records show that one in every 2000 women becomes pregnant while using the implant, one in every 500 conceives while using an IUS (Intrauterine Device), just under one in 100 falls pregnant while using an IUD (otherwise known as the coil). The contraceptive pill, however, sees one in every 10 women conceive while using it.
Stillbirths Fall to Their Lowest Level Since Records Began in 1927
The rate of stillbirths in England and Wales is declining steadily.
In 2017, the number fell by 7.7%, and since 2007 there has been a very encouraging drop of just over 21%. There are now only 4.2 stillbirths per 1000 babies born, which is the lowest number since records began way back in 1927.
Women in 30s Have More Abortions Than Those in Their Teens
In 2007, more than 200,000 abortions were performed throughout England and Wales. That rate dropped over the following years, but - potentially due to recent changes in government legislation including a cap on child benefits which meant that fewer women believed that they could afford to have a child - in 2017 the number rose again to 197,533.
Perhaps as a result of fewer women under 18 falling pregnant in the first place, the abortion rate for women within this age bracket (currently 8.3 per 1000) has plummeted. By contrast, women aged between 30 and 34 have seen a dramatic increase in the number of abortions within their age group to 18.5 per 1000.
The majority of abortions - 9 out of 10 to be exact - are carried out before the 13th week of pregnancy.
In 2017, 38% of women who had abortions had already had one or more in the past, and 98% of abortions performed that year were funded by the NHS.
The UK's Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Is Four Times Higher Than Global Averages
The global average of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders stands at around 15 children affected per 10,000 births.
The UK’s rate is currently far higher than this, with around 61 children affected per 10,000 births. Before 2016, it was suggested by the country’s Chief Medical Officers that small amounts of alcohol taken during pregnancy were medically safe, but the advice has since been changed to strongly discourage pregnant women from drinking at all.
2% of abortions in 2017 were undertaken due to a risk of severe medical disabilities to the child, and around 8 out of 100 UK babies are born prematurely each year.
7% Rise in Women Conceiving Out-of-marriage in Twenty Years
58% of women are now conceiving their children outside of marriage. This number has risen by 7% since 1998.
68% of women who fell pregnant outside of marriage in 2016 chose to keep their baby, while 92% of those within a marriage or civil partnership did so.
It is reported that around one in six pregnancies is unplanned.