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Births to mothers over 40 on rise in Scotland

SCOTLAND has the fastest-­growing number of women in their forties in the UK having babies, according to a new report.

The number of over 40s giving birth in the country has soared over the past 12 years as Scottish women forge careers, marry later and put motherhood on hold.

They join a growing number of celebrity late bloomers including American actresses Holly Hunter and Marcia Cross as well as British writer Helen Fielding, all of whom had their first babies in their forties.

Hunter had twins boys at 47, Cross twin girls at 44, while Bridget Jones author Fielding had her first baby at 46 and a second at 48.

The Royal College of Midwives revealed the trend in its third annual State of Maternity Services Report which brings together information about births from across the UK.

"The changing age profile of women giving birth throughout the UK is perhaps at its most extreme in Scotland," said the RCM report which is launched in Westminster today .

It found the number of women giving birth aged between 40 and 44 in Scotland rose by 71% from 2001 to 2012. In 2001, 1,224 women in that age group had babies compared to 2,093 last year.

Births among women aged 45 and over increased by 165% from 40 in 2001 to 106 by 2012.

The College expects the pattern to continue but warns it places additional strain on the NHS as midwives and doctors increasingly deal with more complex births.

Gillian Smith, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, believed the trend of women having babies in their forties followed a pattern established earlier in other parts of the UK with the increase higher in Scotland as it levelled off elsewhere.

"Perhaps the trend is happening in Scotland a bit later than in other places. It might be something to do with the type of traditional workforce we've had," she said.

"More and more women are in the workplace in Scotland and they are delaying motherhood."

She believed an increasing number of Scottish women would have children well into their forties as they married later and assisted fertility treatment developed.

"Women are probably delaying their pregnancies because they want to give their child more and develop their career first," she said. "The fact that more women are having babies in their 40s is news we have to pay attention to.

"It is a concern for those who provide maternity services. Older women having babies may require more in put from midwives and doctors."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) say that the optimal age for women to have children is 20 to 35.

Doctors and midwives point out that delaying motherhood has some risks.

Older women may have difficulty getting pregnant as female fertility declines after 35. They also face higher chances of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, still-birth and premature delivery. The risk of having a child with Down's Syndrome also increases with age.

The report also showed that overall the Scottish birth rate fell for the fourth successive year. In 2012 there were 58,027 births, a 3.4 per cent fall on a 60,041 peak in 2008. However, last year's number was still 10 per cent higher than that for 2001.

Ms Smith added: "We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has not exploited a small reduction - 3.4 per cent - over four years in the number of births to slash midwife numbers. They have maintained midwife numbers."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The increase in the number of older mums is an ongoing trend and is not unique to Scotland. Whilst there are increased risks, advances in the quality and safety of maternity care mean the vast majority of women who give birth over 35 have a successful delivery.

"We welcome the view from the RCM that there are sufficient levels of midwives."

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