There were 639,721 live births registered in England and Wales in 2004 – an increase of 2.9 per cent on 2003, when there were 621,469. This was the highest number of births since 1997.
The general fertility rate has continued to rise to 58.2 live births per 1000 women aged 15-44, an increase of 2.5 per cent from 2003 (56.8 live births per 1000 women aged 15-44).
If 2004 patterns of fertility were to remain unchanged, as represented by the total fertility rate (TFR), then an average of 1.78 children would be born per woman. This is the highest rate since 1992 (1.80) and continues the gradual increase from a low point in 2001 when the TFR was 1.63.
In 2004 for all live births the average age of the mother was 29.4 years, the same as in 2003. Women aged 30-34 had the highest fertility rate, at 99.4 births per 1,000 women, an increase from 94.8 in 2003. This is the first time the fertility rate for this age group has overtaken that of women aged 25-29. This rate also increased from 96.4 births per 1,000 women in 2003 to 98.4 in 2004.
There was a continued rise in the proportion of births outside marriage with 42.2 per cent of live births taking place outside marriage in 2004. This compares with 41.4 per cent in 2003 and 32.4 per cent in 1994.
In 2004, the infant mortality rate, based on death registrations, was 5.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is the lowest rate ever recorded in England and Wales. The rate in both 2002 and 2003 was 5.3 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Source: Office for National Statistics
Note: Rates have been calculated using the mid-2004 national population estimates. The mean age of mother used has not been standardised for age and therefore does not take account of the changing age structure of the population.