The number of women having children under the age of 30 across England and Wales has fallen to a record low, new figures show.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the total fertility rate for the two countries fell from 1.7 children per woman in 2018 to 1.65 children per woman in 2019, one of the lowest ever.
For women under 30, the fertility rate in 2019 was the lowest since records began in 1938, the ONS said.
However, those aged 40 and over were the only age group to see an increase in fertility rates, with a rise to 16.5 births per 1,000 women.
It added that Wales's total fertility rate is also the lowest since records began there in 1982, at 1.54 children per woman.
The total fertility rate is the average number of live children a mother would have while she is of childbearing age, if she experienced the typical fertility rate every year.
The rates were measured in six age groups, from under 20 up to 40 and over.
According to the findings, there were 88.3 live births per 1,000 women aged 25 to 29 in 2019 – down from 91.3 the previous year.
For those aged 20 to 24, there were 48.4 live births per 1,000 women in 2019, compared to 50.5 in 2018.
Today’s birth statistics released by the @ONS clearly show that the trends we’ve seen in recent years, of women having children later and fewer children overall, are here to stay.— bpas (@bpas1968)July 22, 2020
And the number of live births per 1,000 women aged under 20 fell from 11.9 in 2018 to 11.2 in 2019.
The ONS has suggested that possible reasons for the decrease in fertility rates could be access to better contraception, a fall in child mortality rates in under-fives and an increase in people waiting to conceive later in life.
The average age of a mother at childbirth in 2019 was 30.7 years, a figure that has slowly increased since 1973.
Clare Murphy, from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said: “In many ways these figures tell a story of success.
“The increasing age of motherhood is a reflection of improved gender parity, especially greater female participation in both higher education and the workplace.”
She added that financial pressures also ”weigh heavily on family planning decisions”.
“The job market has never been more precarious, and we know the current crisis has hit women's employment particularly hard,” Murphy explained.
“As a result, we may well see these trends continue into the future as women and couples choose to delay having children until they are financially stable.”