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Record high older women having babies could 'implode' system

The number of older women having children has reached its highest levels since records began in 1938

The number of older women having children has reached its highest levels since records began in 1938, according to figures from National Statistics for England and Wales.

With more than 100,000 births per year to women in their late thirties (35-39) for the past 13 years, the number has risen by 3.8% this year alone. A spike like this has not taken place since the 1940s, during the post-Second World War baby boom.

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The number of births to women aged 40 or older was up 1.7%. There have been over 29,000 births to women in this age group in each of the last six years. There are now more than twice the number of births in this older age group than there were in 1999, and five times the level of the late 1970s.

England remains 3,500 midwives short, with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) calling for more funding and government support to be diverted into midwifery to keep the system afloat in the future.

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RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘There is a gathering storm heading towards our maternity services. Jeremy Hunt himself has said our services need more midwives. He is right. However, what he needs to say is our maternity services need the right number of midwives and it is his job to make that happen.

‘If he is really serious about improving the safety and quality of our maternity care, as he frequently states, then it is time for him to demonstrate this, and to staff and resource our services to meet the demands they are facing.

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‘Midwives are at their wits end and mothers, babies and their families are too often not getting the care they need. This is not good enough and something must change before the system implodes.’

Mothers in older age groups are more likely to have complications in pregnancy and will often need more support from midwives and maternity services. The RCM stressed the need for extra resources and staff to provide care, as well as the significance of an increase in complications during pregnancy due to obesity.