Pregnancy rate continues to rise among women aged 40 and over
The pregnancy rate among women aged 40 and over continues to rise, according to new figures.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that while conceptions on the whole are falling, older women are bucking this trend.
In 2017, there were 847,204 conceptions to women of all ages, a decrease of 1.8% on the previous year and the biggest drop since 2012.But conceptions were up among those aged 40 and over, with 28,793 in this age group, up from 28,759 the year before.
The conception rate among women aged 40 and over has been climbing year on year since 1990.
The conception rate per 1,000 women aged 40 and over was 15.8 in 2017, up on the 15.4 the year before and the 15.1 in 2015.
This means that between 2016 and 2017, conception rates increased by 2.6% for women aged 40 and over.
And for the second year running, this was the only age group to see an increase.
Meanwhile, conception rates among all younger age groups fell compared to previous years.
The under-18 conception rate in 2017 has now decreased for the 10th year running, to 17.9 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 17.
However, figures on abortions showed a rise among all age groups apart from the under-16s.
In 2017, 22.7% of conceptions in women of all ages led to abortion, up on the 21.8% the year before and the 21% a decade ago.
Among women aged 40 and over, 28.7% of pregnancies led to abortion, and among those aged 35 to 39 it was 18.1%.
Among those aged 30 to 34, 15% of pregnancies ended in abortion while the figure was a fifth for women aged 25 to 29.
In 2017, the majority (58.7%) of all conceptions in England and Wales were outside marriage or civil partnership.
This is up on the 57.8% in 2016 and 51.2% in 1998.
The ONS said women are putting off having children until they are older due to a variety of reasons including increased access to higher education and more women working.
The “increased importance of a career” is also a factor, as is delaying due to uncertain labour market conditions and housing, the ONS said.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“Rates of conceptions leading to legal abortions to women over 25 have been climbing continuously during the last decade, which might be indicative of an unmet need for contraception.
“What underpins this issue is the need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services that cater to the changing needs of women across the life course and are available throughout the country.
“Older women are spending more years of their lives managing their fertility and have been particularly affected by a fragmented women’s health commissioning system.”