Largest annual rise of birth rates in Britain since 1979

There were 621,469 live births in England and Wales in 2003 - an increase of 4.3 per cent on 2002, when there were 596,122.

This was the highest number of births since 1999. It is also the largest single year change in the number since 1979.

If the provisional 2003 patterns of fertility by age were to remain unchanged, as represented by the total fertility rate (TFR), then an average of 1.73 children would be born per woman. This rate is higher than that of 2002 (1.65). This increase moves fertility away from the very low levels seen in the years 2000 to 2002.

The average age of women that give birth continued to increase, from 29.3 years in 2002 to 29.4 in 2003. The average age of women at first birth increased to 27.4 years. Provisional calculations show women aged 25-29 had the highest fertility rate, at 95.8 births per 1,000 women. The rate for women aged 30-34 is now almost as high. It increased to 94.9 births per 1,000 women.

The proportion of births outside marriage continued its upward trend: 41.4 per cent of live births were outside marriage in 2003 compared with 40.6 per cent in 2002 and 32.2 per cent in 1993.

The infant mortality rate, based on death registrations, remained the same as in 2002 at 5.3 deaths per thousand live births. http://www.statistics.gov.uk

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