A baby boom, in which the birth rate has risen by 50 per cent in some areas, has created a shortage of midwives, with some hospitals struggling to cope, according to the Royal College of Midwives.
In a report to be published in Parliament tomorrow, the RCM says an extra 5,000 midwives are needed in England alone to deal with the highest birth rate in 40 years.
In the past decade the birth rate has increased by 22 per cent in England, 17 per cent in Wales, 15 per cent in Northern Ireland and 12 per cent in Scotland.
The RCM says England and Wales have been "overwhelmed" by the rise, but while midwife numbers are increasing slightly, the strain has led to "threadbare" antenatal care.
Cathy Warwick, the chief executive of the RCM, said: "England remains around 5,000 midwives short of the number required.
"Maternity units are under intense strain and have been now for many years, with many midwives really at the end of their tether in terms of what they can tolerate.
"We are reaching a crucial tipping point for maternity services in England."
The RCM is calling on the Government to provide a guarantee not to cut midwifery training places.