The baby boom has restarted with “renewed vigour”, a leading midwife has claimed.
New birth figures from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) for the first quarter of this year show 4,600 more babies were born in England in January to March than in the same period last year.
The RCN suggests more than 700,000 babies will be born in England this year, which will be the highest number of any year since 1971.
Rises were also recorded in Scotland and Wales.
“The baby boom is restarting with renewed vigour,” said RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick.
“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.”
It is said the average number of births per midwife has “worsened” in the North West, the West Midlands, London, and the South West, as well as across England as a whole.
The RCM estimates England is short of 5,000 full-time equivalent midwives (FTE), and that Wales is short of over 150 FTE midwives.
The 2012 Income Data Services staff survey of midwives across the Uk found that 19 out of every 20 midwives reported that in the last 12 months staff shortages had occurred “frequently” or “sometimes”.
Furthermore, in a recent survey more than a quarter of UK heads of midwifery (HOMs) reported their budget has been cut in the last 12 months.
“What is so frustrating is that there is a clear need for more midwives,” said Warwick.
“We have record-breaking birth figures, and we need all the midwives we can get.
“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.”