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Image caption About a fifth of all children born in Northern Ireland last year were to mothers who were over 35 years old

Women in Northern Ireland are waiting an average of four years longer before having their babies, new statistics suggest.

The average age of first-time mothers has increased from 24 to 28 years since 1986, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

A report published on Tuesday suggests that women are also having fewer children.

In all, 24,076 births were registered in Northern Ireland in 2016.

About a fifth of those were to mothers aged 35 and over.

Nearly half of all the births registered – 43% – were outside marriage.

In England and Wales, the percentage of babies born outside marriage or civil partnership in 2016 was slightly higher at 48%. Two-thirds of those had parents who lived together.

In Northern Ireland, a total of 791 teenagers had babies.

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Image caption Women are waiting an extra four years before having children

There were 82 stillbirths registered in 2016, equivalent to a stillbirth rate of 3.4 per 1,000 births – the third lowest rate on record in Northern Ireland.

The NISRA report suggests that life expectancy is also increasing.

Thirty-six per cent of the 15,430 people who died in 2016 were under the age of 75. In 1986, that figure was 50%.

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Image caption The report suggests that life expectancy is also rising

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Northern Ireland, accounting for 29% of all deaths.

When it comes to marriage, both men and women are waiting on average six years longer to tie the knot than was the case 30 years ago.

The average age of a first-time bride is 30, while for a groom, it is 32.

A total of 8,306 marriages and 84 civil partnerships were registered last year, equivalent to about one every hour.

August was the most popular month for weddings and Saturday 6 August was the most popular day.

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Image caption People are waiting about six years longer before getting married

There were 2,572 divorces and eight civil partnership dissolutions granted in 2016. Non-cohabitation is the most frequently recorded reason for separation.

The resident population of Northern Ireland rose by 10,500 people to reach 1.862 million in the year ending 30 June 2016.

At 14%, net inward migration accounted for a noticeably lower percentage of the growth in Northern Ireland than was the case in the rest of the UK.

The figures were released in the 95th Annual Report of the Registrar General for Northern Ireland.

NISRA describes itself as “the principal source of official statistics and social research” on Northern Ireland.

The agency is overseen by Stormont’s Department of Finance.

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