Older mothers are bucking the downward trend in the overall birth rate, with the number of births among women aged 40 and over nearly trebling in 20 years, figures have shown.
Some 26,976 women over the age of 40 in England and Wales became mothers last year, almost doubling the numbers seen 10 years previously (14,252) and trebling the number witnessed 20 years previously in 1989 when only 9,336 women in the same age group gave birth.
Although the overall number of live births dropped by 0.3% in 2009, the number of women in more senior age groups that gave birth continued to rise, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
As a result, the average age at which women in England and Wales fall pregnant is now 29.4 years old compared with 28.4 10 years previously.
In 2009, 114,288 women aged 35 to 39 gave birth indicating a marked rise of 41% from the 81,281 women in the same age group that gave birth in 1999.
The findings challenge traditionally held beliefs about the ideal age to become a mother as the birth rate for women aged 20 to 24 fell by 1.6%.
"If the woman is healthy and fully prepared financially to have children at that age I do not see why they shouldn't. From point of view it is best for all, all round. My worry for years working as a midwife is children having children" - V Weerasinghe, Berks