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Rise in proportion of induced labours, new maternity figures show

The proportion of pregnant women having labour induced has increased by 2.2 percentage points1 over the past year, newly-published maternity data from NHS Digital reveals.
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Press releases

25 October 2018
NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of these figures

Regional data available in this report

Rise in proportion of induced labours, new maternity figures show

The proportion of pregnant women having labour induced has increased by 2.2 percentage points1 over the past year, newly-published maternity data from NHS Digital reveals. 

Inductions have increased from 29.4 per cent in 2016-17 to 31.6 per cent in 2017-18 according to Hospital Episode Statistics (HES)2 in today’s NHS Maternity Statistics 2017-18 report.

The rise follows a continuing trend - in 2007-8, induced labours accounted for 20.4 per cent of deliveries3.  

Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, the proportion of caesareans undertaken before the onset of labour increased from 15.5 per cent to 16.2 per cent, whilst spontaneous4 labours decreased from 55.1 per cent to 52.2 per cent.

Ten years ago (in 2007-8), 11.0 per cent of deliveries were caesareans before the onset of labour and 68.6 per cent were through spontaneous labour.

There were 626,000 deliveries in NHS hospitals during 2017-18, a decrease of 1.6 per cent5 from 2016-17. This is the lowest reported level in the past ten years.

It is the second year that NHS Maternity Statistics is examining data from HES and experimental data from the Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS)6 with the aim of providing a more complete picture of NHS maternity activity7.

Additional figures in the report from the MSDS show:

Skin to skin contact

In 2017-18, 81 per cent of women with babies born at 37 weeks gestation8 or more had skin-to-skin contact within one hour of birth9.

Breast milk

Of the 389,000 babies submitted to the MSDS with a recorded feed type, 74 per cent received breast milk or donor milk for their first feed10.


The proportion of deliveries in 2017-18 where the mother was recorded as a current smoker at the booking appointment11 was 31 per cent of women aged under 20. Among women aged 40 and over, 6 per cent were smokers at their booking appointment.


The proportion of women with a BMI in the obese range (BMI over 30) was lowest for those aged under 20 (14 per cent) and highest for those aged 40 and over (24 per cent)12.


Read the full report

NHS Maternity Statistics 2017-18

Notes to editors

  1. A percentage point is the numerical difference between two percentages.
  2. Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) are compiled from data sent by NHS trusts in England and from independent sector organisations for activity commissioned by the English NHS.
  3. Counts of deliveries reported within HES are based on the number of unique delivery episodes. This is the hospital episode where a mother gives birth to a baby. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) collects information on births and maternities (maternities are broadly equivalent to deliveries in HES). Most of the information, for both live births and stillbirths, is supplied to registrars by one or both parents. It is legal requirement in England and Wales to register the identity of a new baby within 42 days of the birth. As it is a legal requirement to register all births, the ONS is the official source of delivery and birth information and should be used in preference to HES and MSDS maternity data held by NHS Digital for those data items reported in both NHS Digital and ONS data sets.
  4. Spontaneous labours are those that start spontaneously and end either in a spontaneous birth or one requiring intervention.
  5. Numbers on deliveries and babies are rounded to the nearest 1000. Percentages calculated that use HES data are presented to a single decimal place. Percentages calculated using MSDS are displayed to a nearest whole number and are displayed with less accuracy reflecting the fact that these remain experimental statistics.  Percentage changes quoted between years have been calculated using unrounded figures.
  6. The MSDS is a maturing, national-level dataset which has been impacted in terms of non-response from providers as they work towards establishing their reporting flows. In this case, for 2017-18 MSDS reported for 78 per cent of the number of deliveries reported in HES. Therefore, caution should be taken when interpreting the data at levels higher than individual providers. Because of this, no figures derived from the MSDS data are presented as England total figures; rather they are presented in terms of 'all providers who submitted data to the MSDS for the reporting period in question'. Statistics reported from the MSDS within the report are classified as experimental as these are new official statistics undergoing evaluation.
  7. Data from HES and the MSDS shown are subject to different disclosure control rules therefore percentages shown using MSDS at sub national geographies are displayed to the nearest whole number.
  8. 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. Data at maternity service provider level are not influenced by the proportion of preterm babies that they deliver. This measure is produced only for term babies.
  9. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 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. Find out about NICE recommendations on skin-to-skin contact.
  10. recommends that babies are breastfed to maximise the health benefits of breast milk, supporting babies' immune systems and promoting close and loving relationships. Visit for recommendations on breastfeeding.
  11. Figures on smoking status shown relate to the time of the booking appointment – a pregnant woman’s first antenatal appointment - which according to on NICE recommendations should ideally take place before 10 weeks gestation age in the pregnancy. This is different to information reported within the Smoking at Time of Delivery (SATOD) data collection which is the official source of data for the proportion of women smoking at the time of delivery. This information is captured around 6 months after the time of the smoking status at booking appointment. Data published from SATOD is used within the Public Health Outcomes Framework and CCG Outcome Indicator Set and is used to monitor a number of existing national ambitions.
  12. BMI is calculated from a person’s height and weight. A high maternal BMI increases risks in pregnancy for both women and their babies.

NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2017/18 financial year, NHS Digital published 275 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Follow us on Twitter: @NHSDigital

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Last edited: 1 July 2019 11:31 am