birthThe Royal College of Midwives says new ONS statistics revealing Britain experienced the largest number of births since 1972 last year show the "considerable and increasing pressures on maternity services".

In the UK there were 813,200 births and 558,800 deaths occurring in the year to 30 June 2012.

With the nations' population increasing by a further 419,000 from June 2011-12, RCM Chief Executive Cathy Warwick said midwives are now "struggling to provide high quality antenatal and postnatal care".

Foundation for good health
She added: "In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, births are at recent highs. Births in England are continuing to boom, with the proportion of births to the oldest women growing faster than for younger women. This places considerable pressures on maternity services and despite recent welcome increases in the numbers of midwives, there is still a shortage.

"England remains around 5,000 midwives short of the number required to provide mothers and babies with the high-quality service they need and deserve. 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. We need more midwives."

Earlier this year, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said the government was continued to try to catch up with a "historical shortage of midwives" and has pledged to ensure that the number of midwives continues to increase at faster than the birth rate.