SCORES of women are giving birth well into their 40s and 50s, according to figures.
Women up to the age of 59 have given birth in Sussex hospitals in recent years, according to details obtained by The Argus.
The Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton has had the highest number of mothers older than 40 so far this year. Figures show there have been 78 mothers aged 40 or above at the Royal Sussex until the end of May, compared with 145 for the whole of last year.
A 55-year-old mother gave birth at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath in 2011 and a 59-year-old mother gave birth at the Conquest Hospital in the same year.
Since 2011 the three East Sussex NHS Trust hospitals in Eastbourne, Hastings and Crowborough have seen 344 mothers aged 40 or older, including 37 first time mothers.
Health experts said women get pregnant later in life because they focus on their careers, get married later, spend longer in education or chose to have children later.
The increase in Sussex is mirrored across the country with the rate of first time mothers over 35 rising from 1 in 100 in 1970 to 1 in 7 now.
Studies have also shown the offspring of 40 plus mothers develop a broader vocabulary from a young age and achieve higher scores in IQ tests in a range of measures up to the age of five. But doctors have also warned of the risk of complications.
Dr Tim McMinn, clinical lead for planned care and medicines management at Brighton Clinical Commissioning Group, said the likelihood of genetic disorders such as Downs Syndrome increase with the mother’s age.
He said the rate of miscarriage increases by between 25% and 35% along with the risk of premature delivery and prolonged labour.
He said the likelihood of medical complications during pregnancy including diabetes, high blood pressure and placental complications also increase with age.
Jenny Crowe, deputy head of midwifery at East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “All pregnant women, regardless of their age, are assessed early in their pregnancy to determine their risk factors, and their care during their pregnancy and birth is planned accordingly.
“Complications during pregnancy and birth are more common in women who are over 40 and so they would be advised to give birth in a consultant-led unit.”