Pressure on maternity services in Northern Ireland as births to older mothers continue to rise

on 21 December 2018 Midwives RCM State of Maternity Services Report

‘The number of babies born to older mothers in Northern Ireland continues to rise steadily’ that’s according to a new report published  by  the Royal College of Midwives(RCM) today (Friday December 21st).

The RCM’s annual State of Maternity Services Report provides an overview of some of the ‘big picture’ trends that are taking place in the midwifery workforce and identifies some of the challenges that face the profession and our maternity services. This year, for the first time, the RCM is publishing an individual report for Northern Ireland as well as England, Scotland and Wales.

Over the 10 years between 2007 and 2017, the number of babies born to women aged 30 or older has risen by over eight percent (8.5%). In 2017, however, a clear majority (57.5 per cent) were to older women and the remainder (42.5 per cent) were to younger women.

Also highlighted in this report is the age profile of midwives and student midwives in Northern Ireland. In the five years to March 2018, the number of midwives in their twenties grew by almost ten percent (9.3%) which the RCM report notes as ‘positive’, but cautions complacency. 

Commenting, RCM’s Director for Northern Ireland, Karen Murray says; “Births to older mothers continue to rise not only in Northern Ireland, but right across the UK and becoming a mother later in life is nothing new. However, 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.

“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.

“It is not just the age profile of mothers that presents a challenge. The age profile of midwives does too. The RCM welcomes the fact that the number of midwives in their twenties and thirties has risen over the past number of years, but it’s vital that they are supported to remain in the profession so that they will be able to provide high quality maternity care for decades to come.

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


*View the RCM’s State of Maternity Services Report 2018 - Northern Ireland


To contact the RCM’s media office call 020-7312 3456 or email [email protected].


Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at