The number of people born in the UK who died last year was higher than the number of births to UK-born mothers for the first time, new figures show.
In 2018, there were 471,476 live births to UK-born mothers and 487,618 deaths of UK-born persons registered in England and Wales.
A comparison of trends in births and deaths in England and Wales over time shows a natural increase (more births than deaths) in every year since records began in 1838, with the exception of 1976 and 1977, according to the Office for National Statistics.
However, the difference between the total number of births and deaths has been decreasing in the last decade. In 2012 there were 230,343 more births than deaths, but that gap has narrowed to just 115,487 in 2018.
When comparing births to UK-born mothers only, against the deaths of people born in the UK, figures show the first natural decrease (more deaths than births) since comparable datasets were first available in 2008.
Overall, there were 657,076 live births in England and Wales in 2018, and there were 541,589 deaths. This is the lowest birth rate since records began in 1938.
The slowing figures have coincided with a lower fertility rate for women.
ONS figures also show that the total fertility rate for UK-born women decreased from 1.71 children per woman in 2017 to 1.63 in 2018, reaching the lowest level since 2004 when figures were first calculated.
Ann Berrington, a professor in demography and social statistics at the University of Southampton said that the reasons behind the low birth rate were multifaceted, but said that people staying in education and fewer teenagers having children were likely factors.
Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “There’s also been significant improvements in the availability of emergency and long-acting contraception,” adding that young people were likely to have children later because of practical factors including struggling to get onto the property ladder.
The new figures also show that the proportion of live births in England and Wales to women born outside the UK has fallen for the first time in nearly three decades.
Some 28.2 per cent of births in 2018 were to women not born in the UK, down slightly on 28.4 per cent in 2017.
It is the first year-on-year decrease since 1990.
Kathryn Littleboy of the ONS said these parents "could be long-time residents who moved here when they were younger, or those who moved to the UK more recently."
She added: "Poland and Pakistan remain the most common countries of birth for non-UK-born mothers and fathers respectively.
"Romania is now the second most common country of birth for non-UK-born fathers and the third for non-UK-born mothers."
For the third year in a row, Brent in London was the local authority in England with the highest percentage of live births to non-UK-born mothers at 75.4 per cent.
Copeland in Cumbria had the lowest, at 3 per cent.