The number of women giving birth in their forties has trebled in past two decades, with surge in older mothers last year, official figures show.
An increase in couples delaying having children for financial or career reasons has combined with a greater availability of fertility treatment to transform the face of family life.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 29,350 women over 40 gave birth last year, compared with 9,835 in 1991. The trend is continuing to grow, with a sharp rise in babies born to women in their thirties and forties last year.
The number of women between 35 and 40 giving birth rose by 3.4 per cent and by 6.7 per cent among those over 40, while the figure was down by 8.7 per cent among girls and women under 20.
The number of births in England and Wales rose to 723,913 in 2011 from 723,165 the previous year, and the average age of a mother shifted to 29.7 from 29.6 in 2010.
Immigration has helped to drive up the birth rate, which has risen steadily over the past decade. The number of children born out of wedlock edged towards 50 per cent, continuing a trend seen over recent years.
A spokesman for the ONS said: “The rise in 2011 represents a continuation of increasing age of mother since 1975.
“These trends reflect the increasing numbers of women delaying childbearing to later ages. This may be due to a number of factors such as increased participation in higher education, the desire to establish a career, getting on the housing ladder and ensuring financial stability before starting a family.
The trend reflects a desire among women not to have their careers curtailed by motherhood, according to Justine Roberts, the co-founder of Mumsnet, the parenting website. “There are lots of different reasons why parents are getting older: some want to live a bit before having their career wings clipped by motherhood, others are just waiting until they are able to afford it,” she said.
Louise Silverton, the deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said not enough midwives were being trained to keep pace with rising birth rates.
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