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bpas comment on new statistics: proportion of women having 3 or more children reaches record low

A bpas spokesperson said:

"The latest childbearing statistics from the ONS show a continuing trend towards smaller family sizes as women choose to have fewer children. The latest cohort of women (who were born in 1973, and are judged to have reached the end of their childbearing years in 2018 when they turned 45) had an average of 1.89 children, maintaining last year’s record low.

"The proportion of two-child families – the most common family size in England and Wales – has been very stable for over a decade at 37%. But the trend towards smaller families is reflected in the proportion of women having 3 or more children, which has fallen steadily over time and now sits at a record low of 26%. Meanwhile, the proportion of women having either 0 or 1 children has been rising steadily since the 1940s, and now sits at its highest level in almost 50 years, at 37%.

"Today’s figures also show that women are having their first child slightly later in life than previous generations, with fertility rates highest amongst 31-year-olds.

"The reasons for these changes are complex. In terms of family size, financial considerations are likely to play an important role. Our research has found that women who hope to have children prefer to delay that step until they are in a financial position to become parents. In our survey of women who are considering having children in the future, we found that the majority (74%) believed it would be difficult to combine this with paid work, and 42% said the current economic climate makes them feel less likely to have children at this stage in their lives. In terms of housing, getting on the property ladder was viewed as a barrier to having children, with 37% saying that not owning a home was stopping them from starting a family soon.

"Three years ago, the proportion of three-child families was overtaken by that of one-child families for the first time in decades, and today’s statistics show a widening of this gap, with the proportion of three-child families falling to 16%. The two-child benefit cap, which was introduced in 2017, was designed to deter couples from having larger families, and we know that in some cases this has had a direct impact on decision-making when it comes to having a third child. At BPAS, we are aware that women have approached us for a termination on the grounds that they cannot afford to continue an unplanned pregnancy and have a third child. Women and couples take the decision to become parents very seriously, and financial considerations are hugely important." 


For more information, please call 07788 725 185 or email press@bpas.org

The ONS childbearing statistics can be accessed here

About bpas

bpas is a charity which sees more than 80,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/