Lothian baby boom starting to fizzle out

A BABY boom which prompted the building of a new maternity unit for the Lothians appears to be coming to an end, figures have shown.

Since the turn of the year, the number of mothers giving birth has dropped sharply, bringing the annual birth rate into line with how it was prior to the hike four years ago.

Health chiefs said they would still press ahead with plans for an extended maternity service, while unions said the decrease had not led to an easier life for busy midwives.

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In April and May this year there were 1500 local births, more than 100 fewer than the same period 2009. It is also fewer than in 2008.

If that pattern continues, the total number of births for the year could be down by more than 1000.

Among the reasons for the decline are fewer migrant workers arriving new to the Lothians in the past year, while the Royal College of Midwives said anecdotal evidence suggested pregnant eastern Europeans who live here often returned to their native country for the birth itself.

In addition, given the rapid rise since the beginning of 2007, experts said it was a trend that was always going to come down at some stage.

Maria Wilson, NHS Lothian's chief midwife, said while the latest boom had tailed off, the overall picture would see a continued rise over the next decade.

She said: "The number of babies born in Lothian remains higher than the Scottish average, despite a small drop in April and May of this year. Experts predict that the population in Lothian will continue to rise over the coming year."

Work has already begun on an expanded birthing centre at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, which will provide a top-class facility for women expecting uncomplicated births.

The maternity unit at St John's Hospital is also set for expansion.

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The NHS Lothian board is one of few across Scotland that has a rising population.

An increased number of children in the area also formed a key argument for the creation of the new Sick Kids hospital at Little France, which is due to open by the end of 2013.

Gillian Smith, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, said the drop would not make a significant impact on the daily workload of staff.

"We have definitely reached a plateau but the rates are still quite high," she said.

"Midwives are still extremely busy and we do still need this new centre at the Royal Infirmary to help with that."

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