First year of Covid pandemic did not trigger baby boom: Official data shows pregnancies in England and Wales fell to 17-year low in 2020 (but still rose to a record high in over-40s)
- About 817k pregnancies were recorded in 2020, the lowest number since 2003
- But there was a baby boom for over 40s, with 17 pregnancies per 1,000 women Women in their early 30s had a record high of 248,528 pregnancies in 2020
- Teenage pregnancies continued a decade long decline to just 13 per 1,000 girls
Pregnancies in England and Wales fell to a 17-year low during the pandemic’s first year, according to data released today.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) recorded 817,515 conceptions among women aged between 15 and 44-years-of-age in 2020, the lowest level since 2003.
This decline comes despite predictions of a post-lockdown baby boom from couples being stuck indoors together and working from home due to pandemic restrictions.
The ONS also recorded a rise in older women in the UK becoming pregnant with conception rates for over 40s rising to a record 17.1 per 1,000 women in 2020.
Overall, pregnancies in England and Wales have continued to decline since 2015 when 876,934 were recorded.
Women are becoming more and more likely to conceive at an older age, while in contrast the pregnancy rate among under 18s have plummeted by 17 per cent in a year.
The latest Office of National Statistics data showed that pregnancy rates in the over 40s have continued to steadily increase, rising to 17.1 per 1,000 women in 2020
While birth rates did rise for the over 40s, women in their early 30s were the most likely to be pregnant
The ONS figures also recorded a regional shift in pregnancies with a continued decline in London and a rise in the North West and West Midlands in England
The number of older mothers has soared in recent decades, as more women concentrate on their career and start families later.
But doctors tend to warn women not to leave it too late to have children. They stress that with age fertility drops and their risk of complications, including stillbirths, increases.
Experts estimate women in their late forties have as little as a one in 20 chance of becoming pregnant because of their lower supply of eggs, which are less capable of being fertilised.
The British Fertility Society previously warned celebrities who have children in their 40s are giving women false hope about late motherhood.
Chairman Adam Balen said celebrities who paraded ‘miracle babies’ will often have used IVF or donor eggs, both of which can cost thousands of pounds.
Because they do not make this public, their fans fail to realise the fertility issues and health problems that may result.
Demand for donor eggs, one of the most common methods for older women to have a baby, have soared in recent years.
Other options include IVF, if the woman still has some of her own eggs, or even intrauterine insemination – when sperm is directly placed into the uterus using a catheter.
Fertility drugs and surgery are two other possibilities.
Just 12,576 conceptions were recorded among teen girls in 2020, down from 14,857 in 2019, and less than half of the number for this group a decade ago.
Experts suggested the pandemic Aand lockdown affected women differently according to their age, with younger women less likely to have been co-habiting with partners.
While pregnancies among younger women continued to fall, they rose among women aged over 30, hitting a record high of 248,528 for those between 30 and 34.
This age group had the highest number of pregnancies for the fourth year in a row, with and a conception rate of 123.9 per 1,000 women of that age.
For years now British women have been having children later in life.
This has being attributed to women wanting to concentrate on their careers and couples wanting delaying having children until they can afford to buy a home amid sky-high property prices.
Experts have also previously speculated that the pandemic may have prompted older couples to think about their morality and to start a family.
The rate of pregnancy in under 18s fell by 17 per cent, down from 15.8 conceptions per 1,000 girls in 2019, to just 13.1 conceptions per 1,000 in 2020.
This was the age group with the biggest decrease in its pregnancy rate a continuation of a decline in teenage pregnancy in England and Wales which started in 2007.
Regionally London experienced the biggest fall in conception rates over the past decade, down 15 per cent since 2009, with the highest conception rate now in the North West.
The ONS said the overall fall in women getting pregnant has not led to a drop in births.
Dr James Tucker, head of health and life events analysis at the ONS, said: ‘Today’s data show there was an overall drop in conceptions in England and Wales in 2020.
‘Although it may be expected that this would have led to a drop in births in 2021, provisional births data indicate that 2021 births actually increased, but that this varied over the year.’
Dr Tucker said this was explained by the fact that at the start of 2021 there was a decrease in births, a reflection of 2020’s lower pregnancy numbers, but figures caught up due to a rise in 2021 pregnancies and subsequent births.
Teenage pregnancies have continued a long term decline in 202, falling to just 13.1 pregnancies per 1,000 people
About a one in four pregnancies in 2020, about 206,000. ended in abortion
ONS figures also recorded that 25.3 per cent of pregnancies in 2020 resulted in an abortion, about 206,000.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a UK abortion care charity, said the pandemic and measures introduced in response ‘have clearly had very different impacts’ on the reproductive choices of women of different ages and backgrounds.
BPAS spokesperson Katherine O’Brien said: ‘Lockdown restrictions which prevented socialising with anyone other than members of your own household will have had a greater impact on women in younger age groups, who will be less likely to have been co-habiting with partners.’
She added that women’s worries about the impact of the UK’s cost-of-living crisis on household finances could be influencing them to opt for more abortions.
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