The midwifery service must be able to support more women who are choosing to have children later in life, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
More women are now giving birth in their late 30s and 40s, which research from the University of British Colombia, Canada, suggests could lead to complications with health.
RCM representatives have said the research is ‘welcome’ to prepare midwives for the possible risks they will face in the treatment of older mothers. They said England is 3,500 midwives short of the number it needs to effectively respond to demographic changes.
RCM director for England Jacque Gerrard said: ‘There is no doubt that the risk of complications in pregnancy does in general increase for older women.
‘We would encourage women who are planning to have a baby later in life, or women who are thinking of delaying pregnancy until later, to be aware of the research so that they can make an informed decision about their pregnancy.
‘Ultimately it is a woman’s choice about when she has a baby and midwives will always support women in their choice and be available to discuss any issues related to pregnancy and birth.’
According to the research, women between the ages of 35 and 39 were 20% more likely to have severe complications, compared with mothers aged 25 to 29. The odds were more than five times higher for women 50 and older.
Women aged 35 and older were eight times more likely to have amniotic fluid enter their bloodstream, and mothers over 40 were almost 16 times more likely to have kidney failure and almost three times more likely to have obstetric shock, when organs don’t get enough blood and oxygen.
These women were also almost five times more likely to either have complications from interventions done to help deliver the baby or be admitted to intensive care units.