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Number of older mothers has DOUBLED since 1997

Number of women over 40 having children increases again as official figures show the amount of older mothers has DOUBLED since 1997

  • Almost 29,000 women over the age of 40 conceived children in 2017
  • This figure is up from around 14,000 in 1997 – an increase of 95 per cent
  • Increasing numbers of women in the age bracket are contributing to the rise 
  • But the rate per 1,000 women has also sharply increased from 8.7 to 15.8 

The number of women getting pregnant over the age of 40 is almost double what it was 20 years ago, according to new figures.

Some 28,793 middle-aged women had children in 2017, compared to 14,739 in 1997.

The rate per 1,000 women has risen from 8.7 to 15.8 which, at 85 per cent, is a smaller increase than the actual number because there are more in the age bracket.  

Figures show pregnancies overall are falling over time as fewer women get pregnant each year, but older women are bucking the trend.

The number of women having children is increasing fastest among those aged over 40, while it’s dropping in teenagers and women in their 20s (source: Office for National Statistics)

Data published today by the Office for National Statistics provide the latest update in ongoing coverage of birth rates in England and Wales. 

In 2017, there were 847,204 conceptions to women of all ages, a decrease of 1.8 per cent on the previous year – the biggest drop since 2012.

But conceptions were up among those aged 40 and over, with 2017’s figure up from 28,759 the year before.

The conception rate among women aged 40 and over has been climbing since 1990.

Although later pregnancies come with a higher risk of complications such as miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, or a need for caesarean section, they are increasingly common. 

Experts said women are putting off having children until they are older for a variety of reasons.

Increased access to higher education, higher employment rates and the ‘increased importance of a career’ are factors, as is delaying motherhood because of uncertain labour market conditions or housing, the ONS said.

The number of girls getting pregnant before the age of 18 has now been falling consistently for 10 years – between 2007 and 2017 – which may be down to better use of contraception and girls focusing more on their education, according to experts


  • Greater difficulty in initially conceiving a child, with the personal and psychological difficulties that this can cause.
  • Increased risk of complications for both mother and infant during pregnancy and delivery (although the actual size of the risk may be small).
  • Greater risk of general maternal health problems, such as high blood pressure, which can contribute to complications.
  • Higher risk of miscarriage in women above the age of 35.
  • Higher risk of having twins or triplets, which is itself associated with higher risk of complications.
  • Increased chance of having a baby with a congenital abnormality, such as Down’s syndrome.
  • Increased risk of pre-eclampsia.
  • Increased risk of complications during delivery, such as prolonged labour, need for assisted delivery or Caesarean section, or stillbirth.

Source: NHS 

The conception rate per 1,000 women aged 40 and over was 15.8 in 2017, up from the 15.4 the year before and the 15.1 in 2015.

This means that between 2016 and 2017, conception rates increased by 2.6 per cent for women aged 40 and over.

And for the second year running, this was the only age group to see an increase.

Conception rates among all younger age groups fell compared to previous years.

The under-18 conception rate in 2017 decreased for the 10th year in a row, to 17.9 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17.

Meanwhile, figures on abortions showed a rise among all age groups apart from the under-16s.

In 2017, 22.7 per cent of conceptions in women of all ages led to abortion, up on the 21.8 per cent the year before and the 21 per cent a decade ago.

Among women aged 40 and over, 28.7 per cent of pregnancies led to abortion, and among those aged 35 to 39 it was 18.1 per cent.

Among those aged 30 to 34, 15 per cent of pregnancies ended in abortion while the figure was a fifth for women aged 25 to 29.

In 2017, the majority (58.7 per cent) of all conceptions in England and Wales were outside marriage or civil partnership.

This is up on the 57.8 per cent in 2016 and 51.2 per cent in 1998.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said: ‘Rates of conceptions leading to legal abortions to women over 25 have been climbing continuously during the last decade, which might be indicative of an unmet need for contraception.

‘What underpins this issue is the need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services that cater to the changing needs of women across the life course and are available throughout the country.

‘Older women are spending more years of their lives managing their fertility and have been particularly affected by a fragmented women’s health commissioning system.’


The number of girls getting pregnant before they turn 18 has now been falling for an entire decade.

In 2017 there were 16,740 conceptions in girls under the age of 18, down from 18,086 in 2016.

This is a drop of 7.4 per cent in a year, and there has been a 61.1 per cent drop in under-18 pregnancies since 2007.

Experts suggest the reason fewer teenage girls are getting pregnant is that they have better access to, and are more aware of, contraception, and are more likely to go to university.

As well as the total number, the rate per thousand has also dropped.

Proportionally, 17.9 per 1,000 under-18s got pregnant in 2017 – this figure was a 5.3 per cent drop from 2016 and a 57 per cent drop from 2007.

The continued decline of teenage pregnancies is longest since records began.

Statistician Kathryn Littleboy said: ‘Conception rates for women aged under 18 years in England and Wales decreased for the 10th year running in 2017. 

‘Possible reasons for the continued decrease in teenage conception rates include improved sex and relationship education, better access to contraceptives and increased participation in higher education.’ 

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