About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) reports on pregnancy, childbirth and the early care of babies born in Scotland. The health of a pregnant woman and her baby are closely linked and are influenced by a number of factors during pregnancy, childbirth and the early period after birth. These include the mother’s age, social and economic circumstances, her previous and current health and health related behaviours such as diet, exercise and smoking, and also the medical care provided.

Main points

In 2020/21

  • The trend of steadily decreasing numbers of births seen since roughly 2009 has continued and evidence suggests some of the decline during the latter months of 2020/21 may be a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown.
  • Caesarean sections continued to increase with over one in three (36%) live singleton babies delivered this way; this is the highest proportion since reporting began. Older women were more likely to have a caesarean section than younger women, although there is an increasing tendency for this method of delivery across all age groups.
Image caption Live singleton caesarean section births by maternal age
The data from Scotland show the expected pattern of increasing caesarean deliveries with increasing maternal age, however in all age groups there has been an increasing trend over time to a greater proportion of caesarean sections.
  • Deprivation continued to influence the health of pregnant women and babies across Scotland. Women from deprived areas were more likely to be overweight or obese, smoke, book later for antenatal care, have a low birthweight baby and to deliver their babies early compared to those from less deprived areas.
  • Maternal age has steadily continued to rise. Nearly six out of ten mothers (57%) were 30 years or older at the time of giving birth; this is the highest proportion since reporting began.
  • Recording of maternal ethnicity has improved but further improvements are required, as there are still 18% of maternities where ethnicity was not provided or not known. For those with known ethnicity, 91.5% of maternities were recorded as being from a White ethnic group and 8.5% as ethnic minorities.
  • Maternal obesity continued to increase, while maternal smoking continued to decrease. Data shows these as being the highest (54% overweight or obese) and lowest (13% current smokers) recorded proportions respectively since reporting began.
  • Women are attending their first antenatal booking appointment earlier in pregnancy. More than 9 out of every 10 pregnant women (92%) had their booking appointment within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, compared with 76% in 2010/11.


The data presented are mainly obtained from the Scottish Morbidity Record 02 (SMR02). An SMR02 record is submitted by maternity hospitals to PHS whenever a woman is discharged from an episode of day case or inpatient maternity care. Comparison of SMR02 with the number of births registered by National Records of Scotland (NRS) confirms the high completeness of SMR02. This data source provides an additional richness of demographic and clinical information associated with the mother and baby which are not collected by NRS. Data on neonatal discharges and level of neonatal care required are derived from the Scottish Birth Record (SBR).

Further information

Open data from this publication is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform.

The next release of this publication will be November 2022.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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