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Mothers' average age has hit 30
The average age of a mother has hit 30 for the first time, new figures show.
As more and more women decide to start their families later in life, the average age of motherhood reached 30 in England and Wales in 2013, new Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show.
It is the first time the average age has surpassed the three-decade mark since records began in 1938.
The ONS report states: "The average age of mothers has been increasing since 1975, with 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, increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnerships."
In 2012 the m ean age of mothers at childbirth in England and Wales was 29.8.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: "The average age of mothers in this country has hit 30 for the first time as many women are deciding to start their families later in life. UK mothers are now on average older than women elsewhere in the world when they have their first baby.
"There may be many reasons for this, including the time it takes to achieve educational and professional development, as well as financial security - and it may also be a reflection of how seriously couples take the responsibility of having children in the 21st century.
"We need to support women's choices to have children at the age that is right for them. We certainly need policies in place that enable women to better combine family and working life, and in particular ensure that younger mothers don't suffer setbacks.
"While pregnancy and birth in older women may present slightly different challenges for healthcare professionals, the answer is not to cajole women into having babies before they are ready but to ensure our family planning and maternity services are set up to cater for the changing needs and choices of women today."
Meanwhile the ONS figures show that the number of babies born fell by 4.3%. T here were 698,512 live births in England and Wales in 2013, compared with 729,674 in 2012.
The number of babies born outside marriage dipped slightly from 47.5% in 2012 to 47.4% last year, the ONS data show.
The percentage of babies born in England and Wales to mothers from outside the UK also reached a record high, hitting 26.5% compared with 25.9% in 2012 and 11.7% when these records were first collected in 1969.
Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The numbers of births remains historically high. This small drop in the birth rate will enable the NHS to narrow the gap between the numbers of midwives we have and the number we actually need. We remain 4,500 midwives short in England and these figures should not be a reason to slacken off, but to increase efforts to get more midwives into the NHS.
"These midwives are also needed because births are also becoming more complex for example as the average age of mothers increases. This puts additional pressures on maternity services and midwives want to give these women the best levels of care. They cannot do that if there are not enough of them."