Northern Ireland

Steady rise in numbers of `older women' having babies in Northern Ireland, as age profile of midwives falls

There has been a `steady rise' in the number of `older women' giving birth at a time when the age profile of midwives is falling. Picture by David Jones/PA Wire
There has been a `steady rise' in the number of `older women' giving birth at a time when the age profile of midwives is falling. Picture by David Jones/PA Wire

A majority of babies are being born to women aged 30 and older in Northern Ireland, after an eight per cent rise over the past decade.

For the first time the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) annual State of Maternity Services Report contains individual data for the region.

It reveals a "steady rise" in the number of older women giving birth to a peak of 57.5 per cent in 2017.

It is happening at a time when the age profile of midwives is falling, with the number in their twenties grew by almost ten per cent in the five years to March 2018.

RCM Northern Ireland director Karen Murray said changes in both figures create more challenges.

"Older women who become pregnant often require more care throughout their pregnancy and we must ensure there remains enough midwives in post so that women in Northern Ireland can continue to receive safe, high quality care," she said.

"We know when there are enough midwives they have more time to spend with pregnant women or new mothers where they can support them with infant feeding, obesity issues or to help them stop smoking.

"The less time midwives have with women the more likely it is that signs of post natal depression for example could be missed."

She said while the RCM "welcomes" the rise in the number of midwives in their twenties and thirties, "it's vital that they are supported to remain in the profession".

"We must also remember that midwives in older age categories will have given many years' service to our maternity services and they bring a wealth of experience to their roles," Ms Murray said.

"These midwives are essential to supporting new midwives coming in and establishing themselves in the profession."