Women continue to postpone motherhood

30/01/2018 15:00
In 2017, the average age of first-time mothers in the Netherlands rose to 29.8 years. Due to low birth rates among women under 30 in particular, the total number of births in 2017 was again low at 169 thousand. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of provisional figures.

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The average age at which women have their first child has increased since the 1970s. This trend seemed to reach an end at the beginning of this century; for some time after 2004, the average age of first-time mothers remained stable at 29.4 years. However, this age was again pushed up further starting in 2014.

Relatively few births

Postponement of motherhood has been one of the causes of relatively low birth rates over the past several years. In 2017, the total number of births stood at 169 thousand, which is 3 thousand less than in 2016 and over 1 thousand less than in 2015. Based on these provisional figures, the number of births reached an even lower level than at the time of the previous lowest point in 1983 (170 thousand). The average number of children as well has declined further; last year, it stood at 1.61 children per woman. It was still at 1.72 children per woman in 2000 and 1.80 children in 2010.

Mainly young women postpone motherhood

The birth rate decline has been sharpest among the youngest cohort. Over the past few years in particular, young women have had relatively few babies. Among women aged 20 to 29, the number of births per one thousand women stood at 55 in 2017, as against 68 in 2010 and 73 in 2000. Furthermore, the number of teenage mothers has been falling for years and was again lower in 2017. Among women over 35, the birth rate has increased slightly instead.

Women in southern Europe: even later motherhood

Motherhood postponement is not a uniquely Dutch phenomenon. In other European countries as well, the average age of first-time mothers has increased. Dutch women occupied sixth place in 2015, after a number of southern European countries. The oldest were women in Italy and Spain with an average age of nearly 31 at the time of giving birth to their first child. Bulgarian and Romanian women were the youngest first-time mothers at around 26 years.