Rising numbers of Lothian mums-to-be are overweight or obese rather than of healthy weight, driving a rapid increase in births by caesarean section, new NHS figures reveal.
One of Scotland’s top midwives revealed that she was “deeply concerned” by the rise in c-sections linked to older and more overweight mothers, who are likely to need additional support due to potential complications in pregnancy.
Just over half of the 9,250 Lothian hospital births were delivered without medical intervention last year compared to around 70 per cent in 1998.
Emergency and elective c-sections nearly doubled in this period to 30 per cent of deliveries.
The stark figures reveal that 45.4 per cent of mothers accessing antenatal care were overweight or obese, while 50.9 per cent were a healthy weight.
Gillian Smith, Scotland director of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “I remain deeply concerned about some of the results, and it appears that in too many areas we are moving in the wrong direction.
“The continued rise in caesarean sections is a worry. Whilst some are needed for medical reasons we need to know why the rate is increasing, and take steps to address this.”
Coping with more complex births for older and more overweight mothers will heap further strain on the ageing workforce, she said, as around 40 per cent of Scottish midwives are approaching retirement.
Obesity campaigners also spoke out over the “alarming” figures, citing increased risks of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and miscarriage for overweight mothers.
Lorraine Tulloch, of Obesity Action Scotland, said: “Today’s statistics on overweight and obesity in Scottish mothers are alarming. We know that mothers with obesity compared to those of normal weight are twice as likely to have children who are obese.
“Obese children are more likely to be ill, be absent from school due to illness, experience health-related limitations and require more medical care than normal weight children.
“We need to do much more to address this crisis and we must urgently improve the diet of Scottish mothers and children.”
We previously reported that a boom in overweight mothers had led to an increase in big babies, as 168 babies weighing 10lbs or more were born in the region last year.
Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “Caesarean section is a safe form of delivery for mother and baby, and there are a number of good clinical reasons why this may be recommended for some women such as breech or multiple births or where there has been a previous caesarean section.
“The increasing rate is a long term trend and the Scottish Government, along with NHS Boards, are developing a better understanding of this.”