Midwives face difficult births due to older mums

A rising number of older mothers means midwives in Scotland are dealing with more complex births, according to a report.

Wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair, was 45 when their son Leo was born. Picture: PA
Wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair, was 45 when their son Leo was born. Picture: PA
Wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair, was 45 when their son Leo was born. Picture: PA

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said that although the birth rate in Scotland had fallen for four successive years, births remained high for women aged 40 to 44.

Their report warned that this meant midwives were handling more complications linked to giving birth at an older age.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But unlike other parts of the UK, the RCM said they were currently satisfied with the number of midwives employed by the NHS in Scotland to look after pregnant women.

The State of Maternity Services Report said that births in women aged 40 to 44 increased by 71 per cent in Scotland between 2001 and 2012. This compared to a 64 per cent rise in Wales and Northern Ireland and 85 per cent in England.

For women over 45 in Scotland, the increase was even higher – up 165 per cent over the same period, though the numbers were small, with just 106 having a baby last year.

The report said: “Older women require more assistance from midwives.

“They have a perfect right to all that additional care, of course, but it has an undeniable knock-on effect on workload.”

Many women in the public eye have received attention after having babies in later life, including Halle Berry, Cherie Blair and Emma Thompson.

Figures also revealed there are particular hotspots for births to older mothers, with five parts of the UK having 30 per cent or more of births among women over 35.

The highest – at 34 per cent –was East Renfrewshire, followed by Windsor and Maidenhead, Brighton and Hove, Wokingham and Surrey, based on figures from the Bounty Parenting Club member database.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In East Dunbartonshire, 28 per cent of mothers were over 35 and in Stirling 26 per cent were over this age.

The Orkney Islands saw the percentage of births to over-35s increase from 21 per cent to 25 per cent between 2011 and 2012, while in Angus it went up from 23 to 26 per cent and in Mid- lothian from 19 per cent to 23 per cent.

The report, launched today at the Houses of Parliament, said the changing age profile of women giving birth throughout the UK was “perhaps at its most extreme in Scotland”.

Gillian Smith, RCM director for Scotland, said older women could also face difficulties getting pregnant in the first place, as well as having more risk factors during pregnancy.

“They might be more prone to having pre-eclampsia and needing a Caesarean section. They also have an increased risk of stillbirths,” she said. “Generally being a bit older means they take a bit longer to recover.”

Ms Smith said that women often delayed motherhood with the best intentions, to make sure they could provide for their children.

“In their mind what they are doing is providing the best future for their child. For themselves, they are probably giving little thought to how their body will react to the pregnancy,” she said.

While births in Scotland have fallen for four years, the report said the decline had not been dramatic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 58,027 births recorded in 2012 was 3.4 per cent lower than a peak of 60,041 recorded in 2008. Births in 2012 were still 10 per cent higher than in 2001.

Ms Smith said: “We welcome that the Scottish Government has not exploited a small reduction – 3.4 per cent – over four years in births to slash midwife numbers. They have maintained midwife numbers.

“We have been proactive in addressing issues in maternity care and are doing much better than other countries.”