More babies born to women over 40 than to teenagers: Stats Canada

When Canadian mothers head to the park with their kids they will look different than their counterparts a few decades ago.

While births over age 40 are rising, births under 20 are on the decline

Laura Quinteros was 41 when she had her daughter, Katarina. She has friends who became grandmothers at that age. (CBC)

When Canadian mothers head to the park with their children today, they tend to look older than their counterparts a few decades ago. Sometimes a lot older.

More babies are being born to women between the ages of 40 and 49 than to teen moms, according to new numbers from Statistics Canada.

The statistics released on Wednesday show that 2013 was the first time older mothers outpaced teenage mothers. In 1993, 60 per cent of births were to women under the age of 30; two decades later that proportion fell to 45.6 per cent.

A few decades ago, someone like Laura Quinteros picking up her daughter from daycare would have been an anomaly — she was 41 when her daughter, Katarina, was born.

"I have a lot of friends who had kids young and now they are grandmoms when they are 40. I'm just starting and they're grandmoms already," Quinteros said.

In 2013, nearly 43 per cent of first births were to women between 30 and 49, compared with about 26 per cent in 1993. During the same period, women under 20 giving birth decreased from about six per cent to three per cent.  

The vast majority of births, 93 per cent, are to women between the ages of 20 and 39.

Percentage of births in 2013:

  • Under 20 — 3.1 per cent.
  • 20 to 24 — 13.2 per cent.
  • 25 to 29 — 29.3 per cent.
  • 30 to 34 — 34.4 per cent.
  • 35 to 39 — 16.5 per cent.
  • 40 to 49 — 3.5 per cent.

At Winnipeg's Klinic Community Health Centre, Vycki Atallah talks with teenagers about their sexual health.

Vycki Atallah talks with teenagers in Winnipeg about their sexual health, and says that education has reduced the number of teen pregnancies. (CBC)

"It doesn't surprise me, considering that we have seen declining rates in teen pregnancy since 1996," she said, adding that comprehensive sex education has helped empower youth to make decisions about their sexual health.

"They are taking far more control over their sexual and reproductive health."

The numbers raise interesting questions, but they will require further study, according to Owen Phillips with Statistics Canada.

"We have seen this tendency in recent years and, in fact, it may be a longer-term trend to delay the birth of the first child, and as a result that has an impact on the average age of the mothers at birth," he said.

On average, in 2013, Canadian mothers were older when giving birth compared with two decades earlier, and mothers in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were older than the national average.

In Nunavut, the average age was 24 years old, followed by Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, New Brunswick and Manitoba. Saskatchewan had a higher rate of babies being born to teen mothers than any other province.

With files from Karen Pauls and Kelly Malone