About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an annual update on Termination of Pregnancy Statistics to December 2019. These data are derived from the Notifications of Abortion to the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland (CMO) under the Abortion (Scotland) Regulations 1991. Information is provided by age, gestation, method of termination, NHS Board of residence and treatment, deprivation area, previous termination and ground(s) for termination. Some comparative data for England and Wales are also included.

Main points

  • In 2019, the second highest number of terminations was recorded since the Regulations were introduced: 13,583 (13 per 1,000 women aged 15-44).
  • Half of all terminations were to women in their twenties in 2019.
  • Termination rates in the 40 plus age group have been steadily rising. In the early 2000s the termination rate was 2 per 1,000 women aged 40-44 and by 2019 it reached 4 per 1,000 women aged 40-44.
  • Almost half of medical terminations in 2019 involved self-administration of misoprostol in the home setting. This is the second stage of treatment for early medical terminations; the first drug (mifepristone) has been taken at the clinic. This proportion varied significantly by NHS Board of treatment - ranging from 10% in NHS Highland to 75% in NHS Lothian.
Image caption Percentage of medical terminations and the proportion of medical terminations where the second drug is taken at home, Scotland 2010 to 2019
Stacked bar chart showing percentage of terminations performed medically in Scotland between 2010 and 2019. This proportion continued to rise and accounted for 88% of all terminations. The chart also showed that almost half of these medical terminations involved women taking the second drug (misoprostol) at home in 2019.

Background

An abortion can be induced (therapeutic) or spontaneous (miscarriage). An induced abortion can be performed either medically (using approved drugs) or surgically. This annual publication reports on induced (therapeutic) abortions only. Throughout the report induced abortions are referred to as terminations of pregnancy to avoid confusion with spontaneous abortions (miscarriages).

There is a legal requirement to notify the CMO of all terminations carried out in Scotland. PHS is responsible for the collation of data derived from notifications of abortions on behalf of the CMO in Scotland.

All notifications are validated prior to analysis. Data quality is considered to be high, although occasional omissions and administrative errors in submitting notification forms are inevitable, leading to some under-reporting. All late submissions of notification forms are included in the following year’s statistics release as revised figures.

Further information

The full report and data from this publication are available to download.

For more information on Terminations of pregnancy see the terminations section of the Data and Intelligence website (external website). For related topics, please see the sexual health (external website) pages on the Data and Intelligence website.

The next release of this publication will be 25 May 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.maternitystats@phs.scot.

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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: 15 July 2021
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