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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Rise in births outside marriage
A pregnant woman
More than 40% of all babies are now born to single mothers
Official figures show births outside marriage are increasing, and first-time mothers are older than they were 20 years ago.

Last year, 40.6% of babies in England and Wales were born to parents who were not married compared with 31.2% in 1992 and 14.4% in 1982, according to National Statistics.

Women now reaching an average age of 29.3 years before giving birth to their first child, which is 2.5 years older than 20 years ago.

New mothers were aged 29.2 years in 2001 and 27.9 years in 1992.

More partners, fewer spouses

Melissa Dear, of the Family Planning Association, told BBC News Online the statistics released on Thursday reflect broader changes in society.

She said: "Women have a lot more alternatives today - we're not so defined by our marital status.

"The number of babies born outside marriage reflects a wider trend in our society towards cohabitation.

"And education has provided huge opportunities to women, and has led to them delaying childbirth until they're older."

A baby
Statistics reflect a small rise in the general birth rate
Last year there were 596,122 live births in England and Wales compared with 594,634 in 2001.

This is the first increase since 1996, but the total is still among the lowest recorded - the 569,000 births recorded in 2001 was the lowest rate since birth registrations began in 1838.

The highest general fertility rates are to be found in Newham in east London, where there were 79.2 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years old while the City of London had the lowest at 33.4 live births.

The national average is 54.9 per 1000 women of childbearing age.

The Luton Unitary Authority recorded the second highest general fertility rate at 74.8, while the Cambridge Local Authority had the second lowest at just 36.4.

Birth rate at all-time low
12 Dec 02  |  Health
Late birth more common
01 Mar 02  |  Health


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