Category Archives: Midwives

Mums, you have a 1:200 risk of stillbirth – what can you do about it?

Sorting out the figures from the office of National Statistics is not easy. Comparisons between the 4 different jurisdictions are not obvious. Different countries produce figures in different years and the speciality is changing rapidly. Concentration of specialist services has been shown to work, provided transport links are good. Even remote areas of Canada and Australia can have good figures given the right infrastructure. The latest (2013) BBC report from Wales indicates there is a lot to be done in our poorest region. (Stillbirth rate ‘unacceptably high’ in Wales say AMs) The rates for the different Welsh regions are summarised and available in real time, and show that Cardiff and Vale trust is worse than Hywel Dda. 15 babies a year die daily (The SANDS charity) in the UK. It is time to address this, and locally led midwifery units at a distance from specialist centres may not help. Deprivation and smoking go together…

So what can you do about it? Mums can stop smoking, stop alcohol, stop drugs, reduce weight if obese, eat a better diet, keep active and fit, go to antenatal classes, and meet other mums for support. Moving to a richer area would not affect an individual’s risk, but if moving meant the specialist services for a high risk pregnancy were closer this might be well worth considering… The governments job is to treat populations and the illiberal success of the anti-smoking lobby is a major gain. Going privately may increase your chances of intervention (perverse incentives) and figures for private outcomes are not available from the UK. Australian results suggest worse outcomes.. Its an option not only to make the baby on holiday, but to have it away from home..

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There is good news in the latest statistics, but the BBC announced yesterday that there was only one country worse in the EU and that was Malta. There is much to be done.. The Times leader on Stillbirths – by Janet Scott of SANDS.

Chris Smyth reports in the Times 21st June 2017: Better care during birth could have prevented hundreds of baby deaths

Three quarters of babies who die or are brain damaged during birth could have been saved with better care, a study has concluded.
Hundreds die each year because mistakes are repeated and hospitals must improve heart-rate monitoring and staff communication, the report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said…. almost one in 200 babies is born dead…

and on June 22nd: Stillbirth rates decline for the first time in a decade

Stillbirth rates have started to fall for the first time in a decade, according to figures that underline the importance of pressing hospitals to take action.

In 2015 about 250 babies survived who would have died two years earlier, figures that recorded an 8 per cent drop in stillbirth rates suggest. Experts said that the fall would have to speed up to meet a target to halve stillbirths by 2030.

There are also still big variations, with death rates a third higher in the worst-performing areas than in the best-performing.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said yesterday that three quarters of babies who died or were brain damaged at birth could have been saved had they received better care.

It was the latest in a series of reports and safety initiatives underscoring repeated errors in maternity units that have appeared since The Times highlighted complacency in the NHS over stillbirths in 2012. The latest figures suggest that such messages are starting to filter through, with stillbirth rates falling from 4.2 per 1,000 births in 2013 to 3.87 in 2015, according to the most authoritative academic study…

…Overall in the UK the number of stillbirths fell to 3,032 in 2015 from 3,252 the year before, but deaths before and soon after birth still vary around the country, from 5 to 6.5 per 1,000…. Disappointingly, the findings show only a small reduction in neonatal death rates.”

…Deaths within the first week of life were 1.74 per 1,000 in 2015, compared with 1.84 two years before….

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Infant Mortality and Stillbirth in the UK – Parliament UK (2014) .pdf

Infant death rate ‘lowest ever’ recorded – BBC News (best in the affluent areas, and some areas saw worse results).

It does  not help when a charity (Kicks Count) is reported in the South Wales Argus 20th June:  Baby heartbeat detectors should be banned, says pregnancy charity when they really mean for unqualified patients.

In Scotland the Herald on 15th June reported the main reason for improvement: Smoking rate in UK second lowest in Europe after 25 per cent fall …

The long term results of rationing midwives and doctors in training…

“Reducing the ratio (of maternity staff in Surrey) to balance the books is the worst of all decisions.”

Stillbirths in all different UK systems are still too high

50,000 short – not £millions but staff…. 

and now we need more despite Brexit: (Chris Smyth June 22nd – NHS in talks to recruit Indian nurses to deal with staff crisis).

Michael Safi in the Guardian 2014: Babies born in private hospitals ‘more likely’ to have health problems – The Study, which looked at 700,000 ‘low-risk’ births in NSW, suggests higher rates of medical intervention could be the cause

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The Times leader on Stillbirths – by Janet Scott of SANDS.




“Will all those that are not dying please go home!” Rationing hits the headlines..

Its all going the get worse….“Will all those that are not dying please go home!” Rationing hits the headlines again and again whilst denied by government.. More and more Health Service employees realise the truth and are voting with their feet. Katie Gibbons reported 2nd August – “Exodus of paramedics causes 999 crisis” and nobody cares…The Perverse Incentive to deny is evident in the fact that none of the paramedics or the midwives (see below) will get even get an exit interview, so their masters will not hear the truth.

Rob Merrick reports in the Independent firstly on 18th October: Jeremy Hunt tells NHS Bosses who are “rationing” not to make ‘easy’ choices

The Health Secretary also dropped his claim that the NHS had been given all the money it requested – admitting it was only enough to “get going” on a restructuring plan

19th October 2016: Theresa May fails to rule out possible casualty department closures in hunt for ‘efficiencies’

Challenged by Jeremy Corbyn, the Prime Minister said key decisions must be made ‘at local level’

and the Guernsey Press on the same day reports: Charity calls on Jeremy Hunt over pledge to ‘step in’ where care is rationed

A fertility charity has called on the Health Secretary to take action after he promised to “step in” where care was being rationed.

Laura Donnelly in The Telegraph on 19th October reports: NHS spending will drop per head despite ageing population and growing demand, says chief executive 

…Officials said it is unclear whether a per capita cut to the health budget has ever happened before in the NHS’ entire 68-year history….The NHS last year recorded the biggest deficit in its history, at £2.45bn, and hospitals across the country are drawing up plans to try and make services “sustainable”….

“We are looking after one million more over 75s than were were five years ago and in five years time we will be looking after another million over 75s in England and that produces massive pressure on the NHS front line.

“People working in hospitals have never been busier, people in GP practices and in the social care sector the same.”

The Health Secretary refused to be drawn on recent reports that Theresa May has said the health service will see no increase in funding, or on whether the Autumn statement will see a boost for social care.

Mr Hunt said all areas of the NHS needed to make “painful and difficult efficiency savings”. But he said this should not mean denying patients the care they needed.

“I don’t at all accept that in order to make these efficiency savings we need to reduce the quality of care for patients,” he said….

Mr Hunt pledged to intervene, if the local NHS took decisions to ration care for patients.

“When we do hear of occasions that we think are the wrong choice has been made – where an  efficiency saving has been proposed that we think would impact negatively on care – then we step in,” he said.

He said improvements in safety and quality of care would save the NHS money, in the long run.

“If you get an infection when you are having a hip replaced that will cost theNHS £100,000 to sort out as well as being incredibly painful and horrible and for the patient concerned,” he said.

Improvements in cancer care would save NHS funds, as well as lives, he suggested.  “We know its two to three times cheaper to catch cancer at stage one rather than stage three or four,” he told the select committee.

Guernsey Press: Government to step in if local NHS chiefs make ‘wrong choices’ over care

The Government will step in when it thinks local NHS leaders have made the “wrong choices” about care being rationed in the health service, the Health Secretary has warned.

The Times reports 19th October: Midwives quit over dangerous work conditions and Kate Gibbons reports that “A third of ambulances miss emergency response targets”

Civil Unrest starts in Enfield? This site began life on 15th October 2016: Defend Enfield NHS – Their strap line is “Will all those that are not dying please go home!” 


The long term results of rationing midwives and doctors in training…

Two items in the news today (Sunday Times – Sarah Kate-Templeton 15th October 2016) reveal the long term results of rationing midwives and doctors in training. When you control the supply side completely, and have many years notice to plan, this is irresponsible government. It represents a collusion of denial. Market forces are giving the government a problem, but they control the market..

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NHS breaches (forced to bust) pay cap for locum doctors

NHS hospitals have had to pay up to £155 an hour for doctors despite a cap introduced last year on the amount trusts could spend on agency locums.

One hospital in the north of England paid more than £10,000 a week for three locum agency doctors. Two locum agency doctors between them racked up more than 4,400 hours over a year, which equates to them each working more than eight hours every weekday.

This weekend NHS Improvement, the hospitals regulator, warned that while the government cap had succeeded in reducing the amount the NHS spent on agency nurses, trusts were still overriding the limits, sometimes paying double the permitted agency rates…..

Last year the NHS spent more than £72m on agency, overtime and bank midwives, according to a report by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). The RCM says that, for the same cost, 3,318 full-time midwives could have been employed.

The report found that, in December 2015, NHS hospitals spent an average of £50.58 an hour on agency midwives….

Mothers face 30-mile trips to give birth

Hundreds of mothers booked into their local maternity units have had to give birth in towns more than 30 miles away because the hospital closest to them had temporarily closed.

The maternity units were either full or too short-staffed to admit the women. During one closure of maternity units at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, which lasted for 3½ days, 22 women due to give birth in the city had to have their babies in a range of towns including Norwich, Ipswich, Bedford and Harlow, Essex.

In Chester, women due to give birth had to travel to hospitals up to 32 miles away in north Wales.

The Royal College of Midwives will highlight the problem at its annual conference this week.

Jon Skewes, a director of the royal college, said: “Senior midwives are telling us that they are having to close units because of staffing shortages and the increasing demands on the services that often simply do not have the resource to cope.”….

“Reducing the ratio (of maternity staff in Surrey) to balance the books is the worst of all decisions.”

If Trust Boards and Directors are to be pilloried or dismissed for falling standards, then they have no option other than to close down services. The choice between quality and cost is no longer allowed, (By CQC or patients) so rationing has to increase… So lets make it ethical and explicit. The real risk in continuing denial of the need to ration, is that when it comes, it will be a knee-jerk co-payment system, across an NHS Region, and unfair to the poorest and most diabled.

Kate Gibbons in The Times reported 13 days ago: NHS cuts threaten hospital closures

James Watkins in GetSurrey reports  20th August: Royal Surrey plan to cut midwife numbers amid growing tensions over financial crisis 

and on 23rd August the BBC news reports: Debt-hit Royal Surrey hospital cuts maternity staffing

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Several midwife vacancies are to be left unfilled at a major hospital that is trying to save £22m.

The Royal Surrey County hospital in Guildford has warned of “some very difficult decisions and changes to working practice”.

It is cutting its midwife-to-mother ratio but insisted “patient safety, standards and care will not be affected”.

A former NHS trust chairman Roy Lilley said it “was a very bad idea”.

“They are sailing very close to the wind by reducing staffing levels. Unfortunately, finding extra midwives (when you need them) is very difficult, you have to resort to emergency agency arrangements which cost the earth or you simply do not get them.

“Reducing the ratio to balance the books is the worst of all decisions.”

The hospital trust said under the ratio, there would be one midwife per 30 mothers, rather than 29.

Retired NHS midwife Val Clarke, from Epsom, said: “It is very worrying. This can only impact on the mothers. When you are very busy, you are unable to give the level of care to each mother that they should be receiving.”

In a statement, Royal Surrey said: “The safety of our patients is our primary concern and as such we measure our midwife acuity levels on a daily basis.”

The trust said the ratio change was “not driven” by its need to make savings, but came from a “normal monthly process” of reviewing nursing and midwifery numbers.

But it also warned: “This year, the trust needs to save over £22m, which means… making some very difficult decisions and changes to working practice.”

Local hospital campaigner Karin Peluso told BBC Surrey: “If this continues at the Royal Surrey and they start slashing at the frontline services, key personnel like midwives, then the hospital could be on a very slippery slope.”

In April, regulator NHS Improvement began an inquiry after the trust recorded an annual deficit of £11m.

It said the trust has since agreed to develop long and short term plans to improve its finances “without impacting on patient care”.

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Stillbirths in all different UK systems are still too high

Holland seems to be developing a less unequal society than the UK and Great Britain. It’s unified and (Rationing and models) overtly rationed health care system may be part of the reason. With 4 different health systems, all independent, and based on different ideologies and therefore priorities we cannot expect much change. The power of a universal and unified mutual is evident in the Dutch Medical system. One of the biggest problems in the UK is that political boundaries are not coincident with Health trust / CCG boundaries. In rural areas especially, this tempts MPs (and WAMs in Wales) to side with the protesters against change(s), which they interpret as threatening. In my case they speak for “little Pembrokeshire” rather than the “big Hywel Dda trust“. The utilitarian approach needed, and endorsed by Trust Boards, is therefore undermined. Planning for longer term and with less conflict should be possible with fewer political representatives who represent CCG areas, and a Proportional Representation system of government.


Senay Boztas and Bojan Pancevski in the Sunday Times 7th Feb 2016 report: Dutch slash death rate as UK lags behind

Holland has achieved a dramatic reduction in its stillbirth rate by putting women at the centre of 24-hour-a-day maternity care.

According to a report published by The Lancet last month, there has been an average annual fall in stillbirths of 6.8% in Holland since 2000, compared with 1.4% in Britain.

With a stillbirth rate of 1.8 per 1,000 births in 2015, Holland is ranked third best in the world. The UK is 21st with a rate of 2.9.

Yet in 2000 the stillbirth rate in Holland was 5.3. It was only after a steering group was set up to look at the problem in 2008 that the tide was turned.

The subsequent report, A Good Beginning, demanded seven changes: putting mother and baby “in the starring role”, noting that “healthy old age begins in the womb”, ensuring a well informed pregnancy, joint responsibility across healthcare bodies, extra help for vulnerable women, avoiding women giving birth alone and 24-hour availability for urgent care within 15 minutes.

Jan Jaap Erwich, professor of obstetrics at the University Medical Centre in Groningen, set up a national audit programme in 2010 where every stillbirth was analysed so lessons could be learnt.

“We ensured better working together, with lower thresholds for midwives discussing patients with hospitals and making better paths of care for individuals,” said Erwich, who suggested Britain could benefit from more ultrasound machines.

Karlijn van Driel, of the KNOV Dutch midwives’ association, said: “In the past 15 years a lot has happened. There’s lots of attention given to women in vulnerable situations, attention to lifestyle factors such as stopping smoking, good measurement to see whether babies are growing enough and midwives and obstetricians now work intensively together.”

The success of Croatia, ranked fifth in The Lancet study, is attributed to a well integrated four-tier healthcare system combining local and regional care.

Dr Milan Stanojevic, a neonatology specialist in Zagreb, said: “We have relatively cheap but well organised perinatal healthcare. More than 95% of women in Croatia make more than eight visits to their gynaecologists during pregnancy . . . Every year we also analyse and evaluate trends in perinatal mortality so that we can respond more effectively.”

Even the Kings Fund want us the “Think about Rationing”.

The democratic deficit. Applies to health as well as devolution, and to leaving the EU. The first honest party should get public support.

Join the Liberal Democrats now. Change the future for the UK Health Systems!



50,000 short – not £millions but staff….

Covert rationing of places in training for Medics, Nurses and others has come home to roost. It is too late for this next decade. We need to plan for the next one, and to avoid the same continuing mistakes.

The times reports today 5th Feb 2016 the end of Chris Smyth’s article on “ditching reforms” ….

The NHS has failed to plan its workforce effectively ( Productivity in NHS hospitals ), with a shortfall of 50,000 clinical staff, the National Audit Office has warned. A report from the spending watchdog also said government plans to cap agency staff rates to get soaring temp costs under control, were unlikely to work.

Sophie Borland for the Mail reports: Report warns the NHS is short of 50,000 doctors, nurses and other staff – written by Lord Carter, a Labour Peer, this is critical of manpower planning, but who was in office 15 years ago, when the missing staff should have been offered places at Medical Schools? Labour. The FT – Carter report paints grim picture of NHS –

Getwestlondon reports 7th Jan 2016:West London NHS trusts facing up to 30% nursing staff shortage

Stroud Life14 Jan 2016 Staff shortage forces NHS chiefs to close Stroud Hospital department

Complacency over “stillbirth rates”? Wales is in decline but stats are unreliable …

Update 21st Jan 2015: The Times – Inquest rules blamed for stillbirth rate

“Hospitals are failing to bring down the high stillbirth rate because they are allowed to investigate themselves, according to the author of a report into the Morecambe Bay scandal.

Bill Kirkup called for an end to a 1950s law that prevents coroners from opening inquiries unless a baby has drawn a breath.

Dr Kirkup, whose report last year concluded that a “lethal mix” of denial and failure by the NHS led to the deaths of 11 babies and one mother at the trust in Cumbria, said that poor internal investigations were a key reason why Britain’s stillbirth rate remained high.

He said that the death of a baby during labour was often a sign of poor care.

Nicholas Rheinberg, the Cheshire coroner who has been active in investigating baby deaths, wants the law to force staff to report to coroners all deaths after the start of labour.”

How we report facts and figures can be deceiving. We are given the impression that complacency rules, but I expect most Gynaecologists would feel insulted by this. The fact is that we have rationed midwifery training, we have rationed medical students and at undergraduate level so that there is a large gender bias towards women. Women do not wish to do as many pro rata night calls and weekend rotas, because many have child demands, or will have in the future. “The number of stillbirths in England and Wales decreased to 3,254 in 2014 compared with 3,284 in 2013 (a fall of 0.9%). In comparison, the total number of births (both live births and stillbirths) decreased by just 0.5% in 2014. Stillbirths in England decreased by 1.8% from 3,103 in 2013 to 3,047 in 2014. Stillbirths in Wales increased by 15.7% from 153 in 2013 to 177 in 2014. Due to the small number of stillbirths in Wales, small changes in the number of stillbirths in a year can result in large percentage changes.” (ONS)

Chris Smyth reports in the Times 19th Jan 2016: NHS trails Africa in efforts to cut stillbirth numbers

Britain trails the world in improving its stillbirth rate, and fatalism about baby deaths is still widespread among health professionals, a major global study has found.

Progress on reducing stillbirths is slower than in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Britain’s annual improvement rate is 1.4 per cent. In the Netherlands, where progress has been fastest, there has been an average annual reduction of 6.8 per cent.

Almost three in every 1,000 babies in this country are born dead. A standardised international measure puts Britain 21st in the world, slipping from 18th place in 2000.

Britain is behind Slovakia; the stillbirth rate here is double that of Iceland, the best performing country.

The Times has repeatedly highlighted NHS complacency over the thousands of babies who die before birth every year. Many could have been saved with basic measures such as consistent measurement of growth in the womb. Yet most deaths are not properly investigated, meaning that the same mistakes are repeated.

A series published in The Lancet today on the world’s 2.6 million annual stillbirths reinforces the message that the matter is not taken as seriously as other child deaths.

Joy Lawn, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, one of the lead authors of the series, said: “There is a common misperception that many of the deaths are inevitable, but our research shows most stillbirths are preventable . . . We already know which existing interventions save lives.

“These babies should not be born in silence, their parents should not be grieving in silence, and the international community must break the silence as they have done for maternal and child deaths,” she added.

Most stillbirths happen in the developing world, with ten countries accounting for two thirds of deaths. There are more than half a million annually in India. Pakistan has the highest rate, at 43 per 1,000 births.

Even in rich countries poor care contributes to up to a third of stillbirths, with most deaths of fullterm babies potentially avoidable, the series says.

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said: “The idea of a child being alive at the beginning of labour and dying for entirely preventable reasons during the next few hours should be a health scandal of international proportions.”

In an international survey of health professionals two thirds thought that few stillbirths could be avoided. The journal warns: “Stigma and fatalism continue to exacerbate trauma for families and impede progress in stillbirth prevention.”

Janet Scott, from the stillbirth charity Sands, said: “We know that 60 per cent of term stillbirths in the UK could potentially be prevented simply by applying the minimum standards of antenatal care and guidance for mothers and babies.”

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has promised to halve stillbirth rates by 2030, with deaths to be investigated more rigorously to highlight where improvements can be made. David Richmond, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that the research was a “wake-up call”.

Baby deaths
Stillbirth rates per 1,000 births
1 Iceland 1.3
2 Denmark 1.7
3 Finland 1.8
4 Netherlands 1.8
5 Croatia 2.0
10 Poland 2.3
21 United Kingdom 2.9
25 USA 3.0
44 France 4.7
186 Pakistan 43.1

Source: The Lancet

Birth Scandal The Times leader 19th Jan 2016

Births in England and Wales 2013:

Main points

  • There were 695,233 live births in England and Wales in 2014, a decrease of 0.5% from 698,512 in 2013.
  • In 2014, the total fertility rate (TFR) decreased to 1.83 children per woman, from 1.85 in 2013.
  • In 2014, the stillbirth rate remained at 4.7 per thousand total births, the same as in 2013.
  • The average age of mothers in 2014 increased to 30.2 years, compared with 30.0 years in 2013.
  • Over a quarter (27.0%) of live births in 2014 were to mothers born outside the UK; a small increase compared with 26.5% in 2013.


This bulletin presents summary statistics of live births and stillbirths in England and Wales in 2014. These statistics include counts of live births and stillbirths, fertility rates by age of mother and by area of usual residence, and the percentage of births to mothers born outside the UK.

This is the first time that the 2014 annual figures for births in England and Wales have been published.

Live births (numbers and rates)

There were 695,233 live births in England and Wales in 2014, compared with 698,512 in 2013 (a fall of 0.5%). The fall in live births in 2014 suggests a continuing downward trend, following on from the large decrease in the number of live births in 2013, which was the largest percentage annual decrease since 1975. This fall represents a change to the increasing numbers of births that had been reported each year from 2001 to 2012, with the exception of a 0.3% fall in 2009. Between 2001 and 2012 the number of live births increased by 23%.

The number of live births and the total fertility rate (TFR) fluctuated throughout the 20th century with a sharp peak at the end of World War II (Figure 1). Live births peaked again in 1964 (875,972 births), but since then lower numbers have been recorded. The lowest annual number of births in the 20th century was 569,259 in 1977. The number of births is dependent on both fertility rates and the size and age structure of the female population.

The TFR for England and Wales (see background note 3) decreased slightly in 2014 to an average of 1.83 children per woman from 1.85 in 2013.

During the 1990s, the TFR fell from 1.80 in 1992 to a record low of 1.63 by 2001. This was largely due to women delaying childbearing to older ages (Jefferies, 2008 (423.9 Kb Pdf) ; Tromans, et al., 2008). The TFR increased steadily between 2002 and 2008 to 1.92, then remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2012 (between 1.90 and 1.94). The fall in TFR from 1.94 in 2012 to 1.85 in 2013 was the largest annual decrease in the fertility rate since 1975.

Figure 1: Number of live births and total fertility rate (TFR), 1944 to 2014

England and Wales

Figure 1: Number of live births and total fertility rate (TFR), 1944 to 2014

Source: Office for National Statistics


  1. Based on births occurring in the calendar year.

Download chart

Changes in the TFR can result from changes in the timing of childbearing within women’s lives, as well as any changes in completed family size.

At this stage, it is not possible to determine whether the fall in the TFR and the number of live births in 2013 and 2014 is indicative of an end to the general increasing trend observed since 2001. Despite this recent drop, the number of births and the TFR remain relatively high compared to figures for the last 3 decades.

Reasons for the decreases in fertility in 2014 are likely to vary by age, social status, and number of other children. For example, older women may feel less inclined to delay having children than younger women, while at any age childbearing choices may be affected by parents’ current financial or housing position. Also, women who have already had children and who may be considering having another child will be influenced by different factors to those who have not yet had children. Other factors that could have had an impact on fertility levels in 2014 include:

  • uncertainty about employment and lower career and promotion opportunities (such as temporary, part-time, or zero-hours contracts), which can significantly reduce women’s desire for children (Del Bono E, et al.,2014; Lanzieri G, 2013)
  • reforms by the coalition Government to simplify the welfare system, which have resulted in some significant changes to benefits, may have influenced decisions around childbearing. The changes, announced in 2011 and 2012, included:
    o reduced housing benefit from April 2013 for those living in property deemed to be larger than they need; children under 10 are expected to share a room, as are children under 16 of the same gender
    o removal of child benefit where one parent earns over £50,000 from January 2013 and a 3-year freeze on payments for those eligible from April 2011
    o a cap on the total amount of benefits that working age people can receive from April 2013, so that households on working age benefits can no longer receive more in benefits than the average wage for working families
An article, published in June 2013, ‘Why has the fertility rate risen over the last decade in England and Wales?’ provides information on possible reasons for the rising fertility rates recorded between 2001 and 2012.


The number of stillbirths in England and Wales decreased to 3,254 in 2014 compared with 3,284 in 2013 (a fall of 0.9%). In comparison, the total number of births (both live births and stillbirths) decreased by just 0.5% in 2014. Stillbirths in England decreased by 1.8% from 3,103 in 2013 to 3,047 in 2014. Stillbirths in Wales increased by 15.7% from 153 in 2013 to 177 in 2014. Due to the small number of stillbirths in Wales, small changes in the number of stillbirths in a year can result in large percentage changes.

The stillbirth rate takes into account the total number of births and so provides a more accurate indication of trends than just analysing the number of stillbirths over time. In 2014, the stillbirth rate for England and Wales remained at 4.7 per thousand total births, the same as in 2013. In 2013, this was the lowest stillbirth rate since 1992 when it was 4.3. In England, the stillbirth rate in 2014 was 4.6 per thousand total births, the same as in 2013. There has been a general downward trend in the stillbirth rate since 2004 with a decrease of 19.3% over the last 10 years (Figure 2). In Wales the stillbirth rate in 2014 was 5.2 per thousand total births, up from 4.5 in 2013 but, has fallen from 5.7 in 2004 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Stillbirth rates, 2004 to 2014

England, Wales

Figure 2: Stillbirth rates, 2004 to 2014

Source: Office for National Statistics


  1. Stillbirths per 1,000 live births and stillbirths.
  2. Based on stillbirths and births occurring in each calendar year.

Download chart

Small fluctuations in the number of stillbirths and the stillbirth rate in England and Wales have occurred during the last decade, with the highest stillbirth rate during the period being 5.7 per thousand total births in 2004. The main risk factors for stillbirths include maternal obesity, smoking, and fetal growth restriction (Gardosi et al., 2013).

Stillbirths and neonatal mortality rates are an indicator within the NHS Outcomes Framework 2014/15 measuring the number of deaths in new born babies younger than 28 days in England. The Department of Health (DH) together with the stillbirth and neonatal death charity (Sands) and a number of important organisations such as NHS England, Public Health England (PHE), the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists are working on an ongoing stillbirth programme. This has included identifying and agreeing the main messages that can be used to raise awareness of the risk factors for stillbirths among pregnant women and health professionals and the actions that can be taken to minimise these risks.

In Wales, a National Stillbirth Working Group was set up within the 1000 Lives Plus programme of work in April 2012, and includes representation of important stakeholders in maternity care. The National Assembly for Wales published a report in 2013 which identified a number of actions to improve the stillbirth rate in Wales. Further information can be found on the 1000 Lives Plus website.

Live births by age of mother

In 2014 fertility decreased in all age groups under 30, while fertility increased in the 30 and over age groups. The largest percentage decrease was seen in women aged under 20, with a decrease of 10.3%. Fertility rates for those aged under 20 have generally declined since 1999. An article looking into international comparisons of teenage births showed that the birth rate to women aged 15 to 19 has been decreasing across Europe since 2004.

Fertility rates for women aged 20 to 24 and 25 to 29 fell by smaller amounts (5.7% and 1.0% respectively). Fertility rates for those aged 20 to 24 have been falling since 2010, while the fertility rate for those aged 25 to 29 is the lowest since 2007.

The largest percentage increase was seen in women aged 35 to 39 with an increase of 2.5%. Fertility rates for women aged 30 to 34 and 40 and over increased by smaller amounts (0.9% and 1.4% respectively). Despite the small decline in 2013, the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over has trebled since 1991 (a rise of 200%) and fertility for women aged 35 to 39 has also nearly trebled over this period (a rise of 197%).

In most developed countries women have been increasingly delaying childbearing to later in life, which has resulted in increases in the mean age at first birth and rising fertility rates among older women. Although fertility rates for women aged 40 and above have generally been rising fast, fertility among women in their 40s is still considerably lower than for women in their 30s. Women aged 30 to 34 currently have the highest fertility of any age group.

Figure 3: Age-specific fertility rates, 1984 to 2014

England and Wales

Figure 3: Age-specific fertility rates, 1984 to 2014

Source: Office for National Statistics


  1. Based on births occurring in the calendar year.

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These changes in age-specific fertility rates have resulted in a continued rise to the average age of mothers reaching 30.2 years in 2014, compared with 30.0 years in 2013 (see background note 6). The average age of mothers has been increasing since 1975, with increasing numbers of women delaying childbearing to later ages. This may be due to a number of factors such as increased participation in higher education (Ní Bhrolcháin, et al., 2012), increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnerships.

The number of births in a given year is dependent on the number of women in the main childbearing ages (15 to 44 years) and on fertility rates in that year. Compared with 2013, the number of live births in 2014 decreased for women aged under 20, 20 to 24 and 40 and over, while there were increases in the number of live births to women aged 25 to 29, 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 in 2014.

  • the decrease in births to women aged under 20 and 20 to 24 in 2014 was caused by falling fertility at this age, alongside a decrease in the estimated number of women at these ages between mid-2013 and mid-2014
  • for women aged 25 to 29 the increase in the number of births was due to an increase in the estimated female population in England and Wales at this age, since fertility levels decreased
  • the rise in births to women aged 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 was caused by an increase in fertility and an increase in the estimated female population in England and Wales at these ages
  • for women aged 40 and over the decrease in the number of births was due to a decrease in the estimated female population in England and Wales at this age, since fertility levels increased

Live births within marriage/civil partnership

In 2014, nearly half of all babies were born outside marriage/civil partnership (47.5%), compared with 47.4% in 2013 and 42.2% in 2004. This continues the long-term rise in the percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership, which is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership (see Families and Households for further information).

Live births to mothers born outside the UK

The percentage of live births in England and Wales to mothers born outside the UK continued to rise in 2014, reaching 27.0% compared with 26.5% in 2013 and 19.5% in 2004. The proportion of births to mothers born outside the UK has increased every year since 1990 when it was 11.6%. Recent rises in the number of births to non-UK born women can be mainly attributed to the increase in the population of women born outside the UK (ONS, 2012).

In recent years, the proportion of births to women born outside the UK has been higher than the proportion of the female population of childbearing age born outside the UK (ONS, 2012). There are 2 reasons for this:

  • fertility levels are generally higher among foreign-born women
  • the foreign-born and UK-born female populations of reproductive age have different age structures, with a higher proportion of foreign-born women being aged from 25 to 34, where fertility is highest

A report on Childbearing of UK and non-UK born women living in the UK, 2011 Census data, published February 2014, used 2001 and 2011 Census population estimates and annual birth registrations to examine total fertility rates for foreign-born women within England and Wales. Fertility rates for women born in around 150 non-UK countries were analysed. More detailed birth statistics for 2014 by parents’ country of birth will be published in August/September 2015.

Live births by area of usual residence

In 2014, the West Midlands and the East region both had the highest TFR among the regions of England with 1.92 children per woman. London had the lowest TFR (1.71 children per woman).

Among the local authorities in England in 2014, City of London had the lowest TFR with 0.96 children per woman, while Peterborough unitary authority had the highest (2.34 children per woman).

In Wales in 2014, Ceredigion had the lowest TFR, with 1.64 children per woman, while Denbighshire had the highest (2.25 children per woman).

Fertility rates can vary considerably between sub-national areas for a wide variety of reasons. The composition of the population living in each area will vary, and there will be variations in economic, social and cultural factors that may influence fertility rates due to differences in the timing of childbearing, as well as ideals around family size. For example:

  • the presence of a large student population within a local authority often acts to reduce the TFR in that area, as students in higher education tend to have below average fertility
  • the fertility contribution of women born in certain countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and African countries may be associated with higher fertility in certain areas
  • fertility rates for some local authorities are based on relatively small populations – calculations based on small numbers of events are often subject to random fluctuations and consequently are less robust

An interactive mapping tool for analysing local authority fertility trends (using the TFR) is available. The tool covers the period 2001 to 2014.

Births in the UK

The provisional number of UK births in 2014 was 776,351. This is a fall of 0.3% compared with 2013 when there were 778,805 births.

In Scotland the number of births increased from 56,014 in 2013 to 56,725 in 2014 (provisional figure), a rise of 1.3%. Northern Ireland also recorded an increase in the number of births from 24,279 in 2013 to 24,393, a rise of 0.5%.

Users and uses of birth statistics

The Office for National Statistics uses births data to:

  • produce population estimates and population projections at both national and subnational level
  • quality assure census estimates
  • report on social and demographic trends

The Department of Health (DH) is a main user of birth statistics. Data are used, for example, to plan maternity services, inform policy decisions and monitor child mortality. The Public Health Outcomes Framework sets out the desired outcomes for public health and how these are measured. This includes indicators related to births. Similar indicators are also included within the NHS Outcomes Framework.

Local authorities and other government departments are important users of birth statistics and use the data for planning and resource allocation. For example, local authorities use birth statistics to decide how many school places will be needed in a given area. The Department for Work and Pensions uses detailed birth statistics to feed into statistical models they use for pensions and benefits. The Department of Health uses the data to plan maternity services and inform policy decisions.

Other users include academics, demographers and health researchers, who conduct research into birth trends and characteristics. Lobby groups use birth statistics for their cause, for example, campaigns against school closures or midwife shortages. Special interest groups, such as Birth Choice UK, make the data available to enable comparisons between maternity units to help women choose where they might like to give birth and work closely with health professionals. Charities, such as the Twins and Multiple Births Association provide advice and support to multiple birth parents and use the data to monitor trends. Organisations such as Eurostat and the UN use our birth statistics for international comparison purposes. The media also report on main trends and statistics.

Further information

More data on births in England and Wales in 2014 are available on our website.

Data on deaths in England and Wales in 2014 are available on our website.

A Quality and Methodology Information (257.9 Kb Pdf) document for birth statistics is available on our website. Further information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to births is available on the ONS website in births metadata (332.6 Kb Pdf) .

Further 2014 birth statistics will be published later in 2015; see the GOV.UK release calendar for more details on releases.

We have published an article on Trends in births and deaths over the last century.

There is a new version of the interactive mapping tool which enables the total fertility rate to be analysed at the local level for the years 2001 to 2014.

For births data for other UK countries please see the latest birth statistics for Northern Ireland and the latest birth statistics for Scotland.

International comparisons of live birth numbers and rates are available in the Vital Statistics: Population and Health Reference Tables.


1000 Lives Plus, Transforming Maternity Services- Welsh Initiative for Stillbirth Reduction (WISR) [accessed 29 June 2015]

Del Bono E, Weber A, Winter-Ebmer R (2014). Fertility and economic instability: the role of unemployment and job displacement

Department for Health (2013), Public Health Outcomes Framework

Department for Work and Pensions (2013), Simplifying the welfare system and making sure work pays

Department for Health (2013), NHS Outcomes Framework 2014/15

Gardosi J, Madurasinghe V, Williams M, Malik A and Francis A (2013). Maternal and fetal risk factors for stillbirth: population based study. British Medical Journal, 346:f108

Jefferies J (2008) Fertility Assumptions for the 2006-based national population projections, Population Trends 131 pp 19–27 (423.9 Kb Pdf)

Lanzieri G (2013), Towards a ‘baby recession’ in Europe?

Ni Bhrolcháin M and Beaujouan E (2012), Fertility postponement is largely due to rising educational enrolment, Population Studies: A Journal of Demography

ONS (2014), ‘International comparisons of teenage births

ONS (2013) ‘Why has the fertility rate risen over the last decade in England and Wales

ONS (2012) ‘Childbearing of UK and non-UK born women living in the UK, 2011 Census data

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity (Sands), UK stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands and the Department of Health progress stillbirth public awareness initiative [accessed 26 June 2015]

Tromans N, Natamba E, Jefferies J and Norman P (2008), Have national trends in fertility between 1986 and 2006 occurred evenly across England and Wales?, Population Trends 133, pp 7–19, autumn 2008 (3.33 Mb Pdf)

Background notes

    1. Birth figures are based on births occurring in the data year, but incorporate a small number of late registrations from births occurring in the previous year.
    2. There is a large degree of comparability in birth statistics between countries within the UK. However, there are some differences, although these are believed to have a negligible impact on the comparability of the statistics. These differences are outlined in Quality and Methodology Information (257.9 Kb Pdf) document for births.
    3. The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of live children that a group of women would each have if they experienced the age-specific fertility rates of the calendar year in question throughout their childbearing lives. The TFR provides an up-to-date measure of the current intensity of childbearing. Changes in timing of births may influence the TFR; for example if women are increasingly delaying childbearing to older ages the TFR may underestimate average family size. National TFRs are calculated by summing single-year age-specific fertility rates over all ages within the childbearing years (taken to be ages ‘15 and under’ to ages ‘44 and over’). TFRs for subnational areas (that is regions, counties, unitary authorities and health authorities/boards) are calculated by summing 5-year age-specific fertility rates over all childbearing ages and then multiplying by 5 (this method gives more robust TFRs for areas with smaller populations). The TFRs for 2014 have been calculated using the mid-2014 population estimates.
    4. Stillbirth definition – a baby born after 24 or more weeks completed gestation and which did not, at any time, breathe or show signs of life.
    5. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 contained provisions enabling 2 females in a same sex couple to register a birth from 1 September 2009 onwards. Due to the small numbers of births registered to same sex couples, births registered within a civil partnership are included with births registered within marriage. Births registered by a same sex couple outside of a civil partnership have been included with births registered outside marriage. The impact on 2014 birth statistics is negligible since only 0.1% of live births were registered to same sex couples. In 2014 there were 713 live births registered to same sex couples in a marriage or civil partnership and 277 live births registered to same sex couples outside a marriage or civil partnership.
    6. The standardised mean (average) age of mother is calculated using mid-year population estimates. The standardised mean age of mother is used in order to eliminate the impact of any changes in the distribution of the population by age and therefore enables trends over time to be analysed. Standardised means are calculated using rates per thousand female population by single year of age of mother.
    7. A list of the names of those given pre-publication access to the statistics and written commentary is available in Pre-release Access list for Birth Summary Tables 2014.  The rules and principles which govern pre-release access are featured within the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008.
    8. Special extracts and tabulations of births data for England and Wales are available to order (subject to legal frameworks, disclosure control, resources and agreements of costs, where appropriate). Such enquiries should be made to:Vital Statistics Outputs Branch
      Life Events and Population Sources Division
      Office for National Statistics
      Segensworth Road
      PO15 5RR
      Tel: +44 (0)1329 444 110+44 (0)1329 444 110