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The impact was huge: conceptions in England and Wales had been falling from 1993 to 1995 but rose by 26,000 in 1996. The result was 12,500 extra births and 13,500 extra abortions.In the 17th century, a researcher called John Graunt observed that between 16 139,782 boys were christened in London, but only 130,866 girls.
While more boys are born at the end of wars, relatively more girls are born in times of prolonged parental stress — for example, as happened after the 1995 Japanese earthquake and in New York in the wake of the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001.
From 40 to 44, it drops to 17 per cent and is less than 5 per cent by 45.
Additionally, those over 35 may well have already given birth to six or seven children, suffering complications that left them sterile.
Here, in part four of the Mail’s fascinating series, a Cambridge professor explores whether fertility really falls off a cliff once a woman reaches 35, how likely it is that your contraception will fail and why more boys are born than girls. French historian Louis Henry, who died in 1991, collected information from French parishes between the 18th and 19th centuries — crucially, pre-contraception — and this was used to calculate ‘natural’ fertility rates.
As a result, the fertility rate of a 35 to 39-year-old woman not using contraception is commonly assumed to be 34 per cent, compared with 48 per cent for those aged 20 to 24.