What do the latest statistics from NHS Digital tell us about births in 2017/18?

This week NHS Digital released new figures looking at how babies were born 2017-18 compared to the last 10 years. They also examined maternal age and the rates of smoking, skin-to-skin and breastfeeding.

The latest summary NHS maternity statistics report looks at the data relating to births in 2017-18, and what has changed in the last 10 years. Here's what they found:

1. Births in 2017-18

In this section they looked at the mum’s age, type of birth, how labour started, and whether pain medication was used before or during the birth.

Total number of births

  • 626,203 babies were born during 2017-18.
  • This is the lowest number of births in the last 10 years.

How old was mum?

  • The number of women having babies under the age of 20 has more than halved in the last 10 years.
  • The number of women giving birth aged 30-39 has increased by 7%.

How were babies born in 2017-18?

Pain relief

Anaesthetic or analgesic was given for pain relief in 61% of births.

2. What happened after babies were born?

In this section, NHS Digital looked at birthweights, Apgar scores and the skin-to-skin and breastfeeding rates in 2017-18.


Breast milk

74% of babies had breast milk as their first feed.

When did mum and baby go home?

  • Most mums and babies were able to go home the day after birth.
  • This was less common for women who had a c-section, who were more likely to go home 2 days after their baby was born.

3. During pregnancy

The report also looked at the demographics of mothers at their booking appointment, including BMI and whether they were current smokers.


  • More than 50% of women had an unhealthy BMI, with most in the overweight or obese category.
  • Women under the age of 20 were more likely to be underweight than they were obese, and just over 50% were at a healthy BMI.


  • 31% of women under the age of 20 said they were currently smoking at the time of their booking appointment.
  • This became less common the older the mother was, with only 6% of women aged 40 or over smoking at time of booking.