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Publication, Part of

NHS Maternity Statistics, England 2019-20

Official statistics


This section reports characteristics of and associated activity occurring to the baby following delivery. HES data contains some basic information about the baby at delivery, such as the method of delivery but MSDS contains more granular data for each birth.

Due to partial coverage of activity reported to the MSDS both geographically and over time during 2019-20 it is advised that the following figures should be described in terms of all submitters to the MSDS rather than England level figures.

A baby born at 37 weeks gestation or later is known as a ‘term’ baby. Babies born before 37 weeks gestation (preterm babies) may be less healthy and require additional care. So that data at maternity service provider level is not influenced by the proportion of  preterm babies that they deliver, many measures of health and outcomes for newborn infants are produced only for term babies. In this report the proportion of babies by Apgar score, and the proportion of mothers that had skin-to-skin-contact relate only to term births, while the proportion of babies by first feed type relates to all births.

Birth weight

Babies weight at birth can be influenced by a number of factors including gestational age at which the child is born, genetics and also the health of the mother particularly during pregnancy.

Of babies with a recorded birthweight at delivery, 7 per cent had a low birthweight that was less than 2.5kg, and 1 per cent reported as weighing under 1.5kg at time of delivery.

Apgar score

Medical professionals assess the Apgar score for a baby at 5 minutes after birth by scoring them between zero and two for each of five criteria (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration) and summing to give a score between zero and ten.

A score of seven or above is considered normal, and a score below seven is regarded as low.

Of the term babies with an Apgar score recorded, 1.4 per cent had a score below seven.

Skin-to-skin contact

The NICE Quality Standard for care at birth recommends that mothers have skin-to-skin contact with their babies after birth to promote the initiation of breastfeeding and protect against the negative effects of mother-baby separation.

73.4 per cent of babies born at 37 weeks gestation or more had skin-to-skin contact within 1 hour of birth.

Breast milk as first feed

The NICE Quality Standard for care after birth recommends that women should be made aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child in the short and longer term. 

The MSDS records whether a baby’s first feed was breast milk (maternal or donor) or not breast milk.

Of the babies submitted to the MSDS with a recorded feed type, 72.8 per cent received breast milk for their first feed.

Last edited: 21 December 2020 10:51 am