Another record-breaking year for births has led the Royal College of Midwives to say there is “no time for backsliding” on investment in maternity care.
Births in England are continuing to boom, with the proportion of births to the oldest women growing faster than for younger women, according to the RCM's second annual birth report.
The State of Maternity Services report says that the birth rate is expected to exceed 750,000 by 2015, with 2012 following 2011 in setting a four-decade high for number of newborns.
This continued rise has seen RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick raise concerns about the size and age of the midwifery workforce.
"Maternity care is the earliest health intervention of all and getting care right for mothers and babies is a vital part of supporting families and building a foundation for good health in later life," she said. "More midwives are being employed in England, and the number of places for midwives in training is on the rise.
"We are thankful for that, but efforts need to be redoubled because of the baby boom and the relentless rise in the number of babies being born, with some areas seeing more than a 50 per cent rise in births in only a few years. A corner is being turned, but this is no time for backsliding from the Government. Maternity units are under intense strain and have been now for many years, with many midwives really at the end of their tether in terms of what they can tolerate. We are reaching a crucial tipping point for maternity services."
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter has responded by pointing out that the number of midwives is increasing at faster rate than births and that "investing in maternity care remains a top priority for the government".
The report also highlights a number of “baby boom hotspots”, in which the birth rate has jumped more than 50 per cent in recent years.
The area which saw the fastest growing number of births to local women was Corby, Northamptonshire, where births jumped 63 per cent between 2002 and 2011. That was almost three times faster than the England-wide rise of 21.6 per cent.
England’s other “baby boom hotspots” include Bournemouth, which saw births rise by 54.1 per cent, Boston, Lincolnshire (53.5 per cent), the London borough of Barking and Dagenham (52.5 per cent), Slough (50.4 per cent) and Norwich (48.7 per cent), Peterborough (45.6 per cent), Watford (43.7 per cent), Southampton (42.9 per cent), and Bristol (Bristol 42.7 per cent).
However, the baby boom, which has dominated maternity care and put increased pressure on maternity services across the entire UK for a decade, seems to have plateaued in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Posted 22/01/2013 by firstname.lastname@example.org