The increasing number of women having children over the age of 40. This is proving a difficultly due to the shortage in midwifes, but this is made worst by the fact that older women having children usually experience more problems during pregnancy and labour therefore require more attention. Which is proving very difficult and an added cost for the economy.
- A baby boom among women aged over 40 is fuelling a crisis on maternity wards, midwives are warning.
- Nearly 28,000 women from this age group gave birth last year, a rise of more than 70 per cent since 2001.
- The trend is putting pressure on maternity services because older mothers are far more likely to suffer complications during labour, according to a report from the Royal College of Midwives.
- Older mothers are at more risk of the high blood pressure condition pre-eclampsia, premature births or the foetus becoming unwell just before the labour.
- Consequently midwives and obstetricians are increasingly having to attend to these women, meaning they have less time to care for others on the wards.
- In 2001 there were 16,210 births to women aged over 40 but this rose to 27,731 last year. The RCM warns this dramatic increase is contributing to a ‘looming crisis’ in maternity services
- The report warns that the situation is being made worse by a ‘chronic shortage’ of midwives, as staffing levels have simply not kept pace with the country’s soaring birth rate.
The birth rate has increased by 22 per cent since 2001, up from 594,634 to 723,165 last year. But by contrast, the number of midwives has only increased by 15 per cent over the same period, from 18,048 to 20,790.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘It needs to be recognised across the UK that demands are made on maternity services, not just from high birth rates, but also from the increasing complexity of births.The increasing age of women giving birth adds to this, but other issues such as rising obesity also lead to increasing demands on midwives’ time.
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of National Childbirth Trust, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said: ‘The greater likelihood of older women experiencing complications during pregnancy and birth means additional midwifery time is needed to provide appropriate care and help these women achieve a healthy birth.’