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Tuesday, July 12, 2005



Nearly one-half of the women who gave birth in Canada in 2003 were age 30 and older, according to new data on births. In fact, in Ontario and British Columbia, mothers age 30 and older were already in the majority.

This reinforces the long-term trend among Canadian women; they have been waiting longer and longer to start families. Two decades ago, three-quarters of moms in Canada were under 30.

Nationally in 2003, 48% of mothers were age 30 and older when they gave birth, and 52% under. But in Ontario, 54% were age 30 and older, as were 53% in British Columbia.

Older mothers have been in the majority in Ontario since 1999, and in British Columbia since 2001.

Conversely, in the territory of Nunavut, over three-quarters (77%) of mothers in 2003 were under the age of 30.

There were 335,202 births in Canada in 2003, up 1.9% from the previous year.

Slight increase in crude birth rate

The crude birth rate (the number of live births for every 1,000 people in the population) rose to 10.6 in 2003, recovering slightly from the record low set in 2002.

During the past 10 years, the number of births and the crude birth rate rose only twice: in 2001 and in 2003.

In 2003, the number of births increased in all provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Yukon, which recorded small decreases.

Among the provinces, the biggest gain occurred in Prince Edward Island at 6.7%. However, the Northwest Territories had Canada's biggest increase in births at 10.4%.

The neighbouring provinces of Alberta and British Columbia provided an interesting contrast. The number of births in the two provinces was virtually equal, around 40,300. The number of births rose 4.1% in Alberta, but only 1.1% in British Columbia. In terms of absolute numbers, this was a gain of almost 1,600 babies in Alberta, but only 431 in British Columbia.

As a result, the crude birth rate in Alberta was 12.8 for every 1,000 population in 2003, compared with 9.8 in British Columbia.

Average age on long upward trend

The average age of women giving birth in Canada in 2003 was 29.6 years, continuing a long-established upward trend. Two decades ago, the average age was 26.9 years.

The oldest mothers on average were in Ontario and British Columbia (30.3 years and 30.2 years respectively), while the youngest were in Nunavut (25.3 years).

Among women giving birth for the first time, the average age was 28.0 years in 2003. The oldest first-time mothers on average were in British Columbia, at 28.8 years, followed closely by Ontario at 28.7.

Nunavut had the youngest first-time mothers with an average age of 21.7.

Low birth weight higher in younger and older mothers

Low birth weight has long been a public health concern because of its relationship to poor infant health and mortality.

It is mothers at the lower and upper ends of the age spectrum who have the highest rates of low birth weight babies. In 2003, 6.7% of babies born to teenage mothers and the same proportion of babies born to mothers age 35 to 39 weighed less than 2,500 grams at birth.

However, it was mothers age 40 and older who had the highest proportion of low birth weight babies, 8.4% in 2003.

The vast majority of babies born in Canada have a healthy weight at birth. Fewer than 6% of babies born in 2003 had a birth weight under 2,500 grams, the same proportion seen in each year of the last two decades.

Slight gain in fertility rate

The total fertility rate estimates the average number of children women aged 15 to 49 will have in their lifetime. In 2003, it increased slightly to 1.53 children per woman, up from 1.50 in 2002.

The lowest fertility rate for Canada was set in 2000, at 1.49 children per woman.

Nunavut continued to have the highest total fertility rate of any province or territory, at 3.1 children per woman in 2003, followed by the Northwest Territories at 2.0 children per woman.

In contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador recorded the lowest total fertility rate, 1.3 children per woman in 2003.

Despite having the highest average ages of first-time mothers in Canada, Ontario and British Columbia did not have the lowest fertility rates.

Ontario's fertility rate in 2003 was 1.5 children per woman, in the middle of the range, while British Columbia's fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman ranked third lowest.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3231.

The publication Births, 2003 (84F0210XIE, free), which contains tables on live births and stillbirths, is now available. From the Our products and services page, under Browse our Internet publications, choose Free, then Population and demography.

For general information or to order custom tabulations, contact Client Services (613-951-1746; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Patricia Tully (613-951-1759; or Leslie Geran (613-951-5243;, Health Statistics Division.

Average age of mothers and total fertility rate1, 2003 
  Average age2in years Total fertility rate3
  All mothers First-time mothers Per woman aged 15 to 49
Canada4 29.6 28.0 1.5
Newfoundland and Labrador 28.6 26.9 1.3
Prince Edward Island 28.6 26.6 1.6
Nova Scotia 29.1 27.4 1.4
New Brunswick 28.3 26.6 1.4
Quebec 29.2 27.7 1.5
Ontario 30.3 28.7 1.5
Manitoba 28.2 26.3 1.8
Saskatchewan 27.6 25.3 1.9
Alberta 29.0 27.3 1.7
British Columbia 30.2 28.8 1.4
Yukon 28.7 26.7 1.5
Northwest Territories5 28.1 26.2 2.0
Nunavut5 25.3 21.7 3.1
1.Excludes births to non-residents of Canada, with unknown age of mother, and stillbirths.
2.To estimate mid-year average age, 0.5 has been added to the mother's age at her last birthday preceding the birth of her child.
3.Total fertility rate is an estimate of the average number of children women age 15 to 49 will have in their lifetime.
4.Canada total includes births with unknown province or territory of residence of mother.
5.Data for Nunavut are excluded from the Northwest Territories.

  2002 2003 2002 to 2003
  number % change increase/decrease
Canada2 328,802 335,202 1.9 6,400
Newfoundland and Labrador 4,651 4,629 -0.5 -22
Prince Edward Island 1,328 1,417 6.7 89
Nova Scotia 8,663 8,650 -0.2 -13
New Brunswick 7,046 7,117 1.0 71
Quebec 72,477 73,905 2.0 1,428
Ontario 128,528 130,927 1.9 2,399
Manitoba 13,888 13,940 0.4 52
Saskatchewan 11,761 12,038 2.4 277
Alberta 38,691 40,287 4.1 1,596
British Columbia 40,065 40,496 1.1 431
Yukon 339 335 -1.2 -4
Northwest Territories3 635 701 10.4 66
Nunavut3 726 758 4.4 32
1.Excludes births to non-residents of Canada and stillbirths.
2.Canada total includes births with unknown province or territory of residence of mother.
3.Data for Nunavut are excluded from the Northwest Territories.

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Date Modified: 2005-07-12 Important Notices