Painkiller use in childbirth drops six percentage points in a decade

Author: Ingrid Torjesen

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The use of analgesics or anaesthetics before or during delivery has dropped from 67% of all deliveries in 2008-09 to 61% in 2018-19, a report released by NHS Digital shows.

The number of deliveries is also at its lowest level in a decade, falling 7.5% from 652,638 in 2008-09 to 603,766 in 2018-19, The NHS Maternity Statistics, England 2018-19 report shows. There has been a 3.6% drop from 2017-18 alone, when there were 626,203 deliveries.

There has also been a marked change in the age of new mothers. Deliveries for women under 20 have more than halved in a decade, falling from 42,209 in 2008-09, to 16,956 in 2018-19. Meanwhile Deliveries for women in their thirties has increased by 7%, climbing from 279,206 in 2008-09, to 298,590 in 2018-19. 

The report brings together detailed information on hospital care received before, during and after delivery from the Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES) database, along with figures from the Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS) which provides information on a range of measures reported at a mother’s booking appointment, information on the labour and delivery and babies’ demographics, diagnoses and screening tests.  

Overall, 83% of women reported taking a folic acid supplement prior to or on confirmation of pregnancy, of which the lowest proportion was women under 20 (69%), figures from the MSDS show. 

Alcohol status was reported in only 60% (327,495) of antenatal bookings and 97.2% of these women (318,363) reported a zero-alcohol intake. Half of women (230,311) of women were recorded as overweight or obese at their booking appointment and 12% (62,314) reported that they smoked.

Three quarters of babies (372,637) with a reported first feed type, received breast milk as their first feed, and 82% (370,590) of women with babies born at a gestation of at least 37 weeks had skin to skin contact within an hour of birth.

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