ALMOST one in 20 Scots babies is born to a mother over the age of 40, new figures show.
More than 2,300 babies born north of the border last year – 4% of the total – have mothers in their fifth decade or older.
Just 20 years ago, only 1% of babies were born to women in the same age group, according to the Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland.
And childbirth among women aged 30-39 accounted for 43% of all births in Scotland last year.
The steady increase in the age of Scotland’s mothers is strongly related to the growing number of women enjoying long and successful careers.
Women have also been encouraged to delay starting a family by a string of high-profile older mothers.
Cherie Blair gave birth at 45, Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman at 41, while Sarah Brown had children at the age of 40 and 42.
But childbirth experts repeated their warnings that older mother face increased chances of medical complications.
Daghni Rajasingam, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Mums getting older is a growing trend, and it’s something we do have concerns about.”
He added: “Almost every single complication associated with pregnancy is more common in older women.”
He said older mothers were affected by higher rates of miscarriage, pre-term delivery, stillbirth, pre-eclampsyia and Down’s Syndrome.
The best age at which to get pregnant is between 20 and 30, he added.
“Older pregnant women are deemed high risk, so there’s a need for intensive treatment,” said Mr Rajasingam.
“It’s not the ideal time to think about getting pregnant, simply for these reasons, but people often make life choices that are not always the best or the healthiest.”
Lara Innes,from Dunblane, gave birth to her first child, Poppy, in January this year, aged 40.
She said: “I never planned to have children. I used to enjoy having a busy social life and living life each day but, now I have Poppy, I live for her.”
The new mother admits her age made pregnancy stressful and she did not tell anyone until tests showed all was well with her unborn child.
The statistics from the ISD also show that 27% of all births in Scotland were to women aged 30 to 34, slightly down on the 2002 high of 31%.
New mothers aged 35 to 39 accounted for 16% of births last year, just 1% down on the 2008 high.
A spokeswoman for the National Childbirth Trust said the rising number of new mothers in the late 30s or 40s was a trend they had seen for the past decade.
She said it was important that older mothers should feel well-supported and confident if they chose to start a family later in life.
“Many older women who are fit and well can go on to have a straightforward pregnancy and birth, and a healthy baby.
“There are many reasons women may choose to become a parent later on in life, including a desire to build a career or achieve financial independence, or that they don’t feel ready to settle down.
“Maternity services should be well-equipped to meet these needs.”
A Scottish government spokesman also reassured older woman planning to start a family.
He said: “Advances in the quality and safety of maternity care mean that the vast majority of women who give birth over the age of 35 have a successful delivery.”