global fertility rates

How Do Fertility Rates Vary Across The UK (See Who’s No.1)

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As the days, weeks and months have ticked by, Jo and I have become increasingly frustrated at our inability to conceive.

This has naturally led to us Googling and Googling to find the elusive reason.

One of the reasons that has consistently flagged up is stress and another is pollution.

This got us to thinking, is there a geographical lottery?

geographical lottery

Does living in a certain area in the UK give you a greater chance of conception?

The results were truly intriguing and threw up more than a few surprises.

Which Are The Most Fertile Regions In The UK?

It turns out, this data is readily available from the office of National Statistics. You can see the number of live births, fertility rate, crude birth rate and more for each of the individual regions. The report includes over 400 regions, across the UK. We have used the data for 2016 for the results, but the data from previous years, also broadly correlated. The same trends are being seen across the globe.

global fertility rates

For the purposes of this piece, we’ve decided to focus on the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). This is defined as, “the average number of live children that a group of women would bear if they experience the age-specific fertility rates of the calendar year in question throughout their childbearing lifespan”.

When looking broadly at the regions, it was Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and the East that came out on top. However, as you might expect, there weren’t large difference between each of the regions, although Scotland was surprisingly low:

  • North-East: 1.72
  • North-West: 1.85
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: 1.82
  • East Midlands: 1.82
  • West Midlands: 1.91
  • East: 1.91
  • South-East: 1.84
  • South-West: 1.79
  • Wales: 1.74
  • Scotland: 1.52
  • Northern Ireland: 1.95
  • London: 1.72

For London, the story is very much a tale of two cities. For inner city London, the fertility rate is 1.47, with Westminster (1.2), Camden (1.26) and City of London (0.75) all below 1.3.

In contrast, when looking at outer London, the fertility rate rises to 1.96 with the majority of areas being close to 2 and Barking and Dagenham scoring as high as 2.47. When looking specifically at where Jo and I live, where are scoring at 1.88. Which means we are actually above the national average. Although, we both commute into London and spend most of our lives in the city.

England: 1.81

UK: 1.79

It is when delving in the regional nuisances that the data gets much much more interesting.

Where Is The Fertile Rate Highest?

Across the whole of the United Kingdom, there were a couple of regions that had a fertility rate of over 2.2. These regions were Blackburn with Darwen (2.25), Elmbridge (2.23), Slough (2.29), Bradford (2.21), Barking & Dagenham (2,47), Forest Heath (2.31), Peterborough (2.26), Northamptonshire is included because it was the only sub-region to record over 2.

When looking at these specific regions, we can also see the the percentage of lives births outside of marriage or civil partnership. In each of the high performing regions it was:

  • Blackburn with Darwen – 47.1%
  • Bradford – 41.4%
  • Northamptonshire – 51.3%
  • Peterborough – 50.3%
  • Forest Heath – 36.1%
  • Barking & Dagenham – 47.4%
  • Elmbridge – 27.4%
  • Slough – 31.2%

Overall, the percentage of live births outside of marriage in the most fertile regions was below the national average of 47.7%.

In contrast, some of the regions with the lowest levels of fertility like Newcastle (1.56), York (1.37), Sheffield (1.58), Lincoln (1.56), Newcastle under Lyme (1.48), Cambridge (1.45), Norwich (1.46), Inner London (1.47), Brighton and Hove (1.30)

  • Newcastle – 49.8%
  • York – 45.9%
  • Norwich – 58.3%
  • Sheffield – 50.2%
  • Inner London – 38.2%
  • Lincoln – 62.1%
  • Brighton and Hove – 49.0%
  • Cambridge – 35.1%
  • Newcastle under Lyme – 61.2%

So what are the factors that are causing these trends? It is clear that cities and in particular the inner cities have the lowest fertility rates. We have taken a look at some of the main reasons below.

Is Pollution Reducing Fertility Rates?

fertility and pollution

The city by city data and the scientific evidence suggests that pollution is having an impact. While birth rates in the polluted cities of India and other newly industrialised countries remains high (world’s most polluted cities), pollution does have a detrimental impact.

Before we started to conceive, we knew that the day to day pollution from our daily commute to London may have had an impact. How can it not? The smoke, the tube/subway dirt and all of the other germs must take a toll.

However, people in the city seem to have kids too so there is no problem right? Wrong! 

There have now been numerous studies that have shown strong links between pollution and both lower live birth rates and higher rates of miscarriage, both are worrying trends (study here).

More Career Women Leading To Lower Fertility Rates?

It is simply the case that there are more career women in the major cities than in the more rural parts of the country. Sadly, for many women in the cities, having a child is seen a backwards move in their career. It is only when they’re into there 30s that they can start to think about children.

This anecdotal evidence is borne out in the figures from the government statistics.

career women

As a result, it is not only more difficult to conceive but women are less likely to 3, 4 or even 5 children, unless they have the joy of a multiple birth.

We weren’t go into the details in this article but we have another post that looks at the struggling of conceiving in your 30s. I’m pleased to say that we have managed it at the 7th month of asking. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that my age has made it a little more difficult.

The Inner City Stress

impact of stress

Stress has been proven again and again to impact on your ability to conceive. Whether it is reducing the likelihood of successful implantation, harming sperm quality or causing irregular cycles, stress has a real impact.

If you want to learn more about the impacts of stress and the ways to reduce it then we have a great post. Stress was a real issue for both of us in the early stages. While you can’t know why you failed to conceive, I think this was a factor. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourselves and your relationship.

While everyone has stress in their lives, I think it is undeniable that average stress is higher in the cities. After all, people don’t go on 2 week long city breaks. It is too intense for a holiday. There is a constant background noise, it is never dark and there are people everywhere.

These are some of the things that I love about London but they certainly add to my stress levels which in turn harm fertility rates.

Is The City Where I Want To Raise My Child?

child in the city

The story is different for each and every city in the UK but I know from London that, for many, they will look to move out of the city when they take the decision to try for children.

This is due to a combination of factors:

  • Inner City Schooling – There are some great schools in the city centre but the average standard schooling in terms of both attainment and facilities is often better further out.
  • Moving Closer To Family – For many, moving out of the city means moving back closer to home. If you’re looking to start a family then you need the support of your own. I know I’m going to need all the support that I can get.
  • Green Spaces – This might not be one for everyone. I want my child to be able to run around the park, go for walks surrounded by green.
  • Pollution – As mentioned in the previous sections, pollution is definitely still an issue in inner city areas. It is known to be causing deaths and it is known to be at unhealthy levels. The government are taking action but it isn’t enough.

Conclusion

I think the results they we have seen are a combination of demographic and environmental factors. There are reasons like pollution, stress and careers that mean conceiving is definitely more difficult in a city.

However, there is the fact that many looking to start a family decide to move.

The combination of these elements creates are a more stark difference than is probably the case.

…and thanks for stopping by. I thought I would introduce us; myself (Jo) and my boyfriend Chris. We’ll both be uploading our innermost thoughts and musings over the next phase of our lives which we hope is a very happy one. Welcome to our world x

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