NHS Maternity services across the UK are being hit with cutbacks, but the baby boom of the last decade is just about to kick off again, reveals new research.
Figures released from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) revealed that birth figures for the first quarter of this year are up by 4,600 more births in England in January to March than the same period last year.
More than 700,000 babies will be born in England this year, which will be the highest number since 1971, according to the Royal College of Midwives.
Scotland and Wales have also reported a rise in birth rates.
Cathy Warwick, RCM chief executive, said: "The baby boom is restarting with renewed vigour. We are already at birth numbers that haven't been seen for at least a couple of generations, probably not in the working life of any midwife practising today.
"Today's midwives simply have never seen anything like it. The demand this is placing on the NHS is enormous."
The RCM is warning of a sever lack of midwives to support the growing number of pregnancies. They estimate that England is short of 5,000 full-time midwives.
In a recent survey more than a quarter of UK heads of midwifery (HOMs) reported that their budget has been cut in the last 12 months.
Training of new midwives has also been impacted; student midwife numbers are being cut in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The bursary paid to student midwives in Northern Ireland, to help them meet the costs of study, is being cut by £890.
In a poll of 2,000 midwives, 89% said they did not feel able to give women all the care and support they need.
Ms Warwick said: "NHS maternity services, especially in England, are on a knife-edge.
"We have carried shortages for years, but with the number of births going up and up and up. I really believe we are at the limit of what maternity services can safely deliver."
Newly-qualified midwives are struggling to find jobs and a third of new midwives are unemployed. Of these, almost a half (47%) have been looking for a job for more than three months.
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented:
" As a nation we have to stop throwing away the talents of these young midwives and recruit them into the NHS. They are needed, and it’s an utterly false economy not to bring them into the service".
Report by Ian Bell