The percentage of pregnant women having labour induced has hit a record high, new figures reveal.
Last financial year, 32% of deliveries involved an induction, which is the highest level since the NHS Digital data set began in 2007-08. Ten years ago, 20% of expectant mothers had labour induced.
The latest figures come in the same week North Bristol NHS Trust was forced to temporarily shut Cossham Birth Centre due to an “unprecedented” rise in women needing induction at another hospital under its control.
The trust said the increase was down to the introduction of the NHS England Saving Babies’ Lives care bundle, which is designed to lower the risk of stillbirths.
The latest NHS Digital figures, published on Thursday, show the proportion of women having caesareans has matched the highest level on record at 16%.
Meanwhile, spontaneous deliveries fell to 52%, which is the lowest in the 10-year period.
The figures also show how care becomes more complex in older mothers, with the likelihood of having a natural deliver getting lower with age.
In the under 20 age group, 69% of births were spontaneous, dropping to 63% in 20 to 29 year olds, 55% in women between 30 and 39, and 45% in those 40 and over.
“Midwives are committed to ensuring the women they care for have the safest possible pregnancy”
Overall, the number of deliveries taking place in the NHS dropped to a record low of 626,203.
Mandy Forrester, head of quality and standards at the Royal College of Midwives, said midwives needed to be given time to speak to women who chose to have a caesarean for non-medical reasons about the potential complications.
She added that inductions were carried out based on risk assessment and wh at was clinically appropriate with agreement with the mother.
“The midwives’ role is to support the woman in her choice,” Ms Forrester said.
The statistics also show that 31% of women aged under 20 were smokers at their first antenatal appointment.
Ms Forrester said this was “far too high” and “must be tackled as matter of urgency”.
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“Midwives are committed to ensuring the women they care for have the safest possible pregnancy and supporting them to stop smoking is part of achieving this,” she said.
“However, the provision of stop smoking services in place around the UK is often patchy,” she noted.
“Midwives need to have high-quality stop smoking services available for the women they support in order to address this,” she said.
She added: “We would also like to see more public health campaigns and information regarding the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.”
Ms Forrester said the 24% obesity rate among pregnant women aged 40 and over in 2017-18 was also “far too high”.
“We know obesity and smoking can have an impact on stillbirth rates and women who are overweight do require extra surveillance throughout their pregnancy,” she highlighted.
However, she hailed the fact that 81% of women with babies born at 37 weeks gestation or more had skin-to-skin contact within one hour of birth as “very positive”.