Middle-aged mums: Manchester is UK hotspot for women over 40 giving birth

Manchester is one of the country’s hotspots for women over 40 giving birth, but specialists are warning that giving birth in later life could increase the likelihood of genetic disorders.

Women aged 40-49 in Greater Manchester gave birth to 1,190 babies last year – one of the highest rates in the country – according to figures released by the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES).

This equates to six women over 40 giving birth in every 1,000 Manchester residents. 

MM also revealed last year that Manchester has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the UK too.

But doctor Clare Tower, a maternal medicine consultant from St Mary’s Hospital, explained that giving birth over the age of 40 could increase the chances of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.

“Unfortunately, every pregnancy risk goes up with with maternal age,” she told MM.

“It’s an unfortunate fact that probably women were designed to have babies in their 20s.

“Virtually every risk you can think about is higher for women who are older – particularly over the age of 40.”

“The older a woman is, the more likely it is that her baby will have Down’s syndrome.”

Down’s syndrome is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans, affecting one in 700 babies.

It occurs when babies inherit extra chromosomes and is associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability.

Dr Tower revealed that at the age of 40, the rate of giving birth to a child with downs syndrome is approximately one in 100 and by the age of 45, that rate increases to a worrying one in 30.

“It does escalate quite high starting off from the age of 35, where the rate is one in 350,” she said.

“That gives you a handle of how the risk increases quite visibly.”

A recent ONS report revealed the reasons for an increased number of women giving birth at an older age.

These include increased participation in higher education; increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnerships.

The national percentage of cesarean deliveries also slightly increased to 26.2% last year – a 0.7% increase from 2012-13.

Greater Manchester fell just below the national average, with a cesarean delivery percentage of 24.4%, which equates to 8,530 women across the area.

Dr Tower believed there were multiples reasons for the increase including more older and overweight women giving birth as well as more women carrying unwell babies, which are all more likely to provide complications.

The doctor also revealed that there had been a gradual increase in women requesting cesarean sections without medical indication at St Mary’s Hospital.

“The overall cesarean section rate has gradually been increasing over the recent years,” she said.

“The average rate is 26% now, but some hospitals will be much higher than that.

“In 1990 the rate was 12%, in 2001 it was 21% and now some hospitals will be running rates near 30%.

“I’m sure some people are influenced by what they read and the celebrity culture.”

Image courtesy of Gabi Menashe, with thanks.

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