THE latest report from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) highlights a growing challenge for the NHS.
Its third annual State of Maternity Services Report shows Scotland has the fastest-growing number of women in their forties in the UK having babies. The number of women giving birth aged between 40 and 44 in Scotland rose by 71% from 2001 to 2012, from 1224 to 2093.
This is a trend that will continue. Women are marrying later, and increasingly delaying their pregnancies in order to continue to progress their careers. While this means new parents are likely to be financially more secure as they start their families, delaying motherhood has its risks.
The pattern will place increasing strain on the health service as midwives and doctors increasingly deal with more complex births.
The RCM states that the Scottish Government has resisted any temptation to use a small reduction in the overall number of births (3.4% over four years) as an excuse to cut midwife numbers. This is to be welcomed, but we must ensure that maternity services continue to be given the highest priority.
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