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Obesity and age factors in induced pregnancies

29 October 2018 08:52

The proportion of caesareans has increased

The proportion of caesareans has increased

Nearly a third of pregnant women had their labour induced last year, leading experts to link the figure with rising maternal age and obesity.

The latest figures released by NHS Digital show that 31.6% of pregnant women had their labour induced in 2017/18, up from 29.4% in 2016/17.

The numbers follow a continuing upward trend in the proportion of induced pregnancies, which only accounted for 20.4% of deliveries in 2007/08.

The latest maternity data also shows the proportion of caesarean sections undertaken before the onset of labour increased from 15.5% to 16.2%, and up from 11% a decade ago.

Complexity of births

NHS Digital said the proportion of caesarean births increase with age group and account for 45% of deliveries for women aged 40 and over.

Dr Pat O'Brien, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said both trends are likely to have been driven by a number of factors - including an increase in the complexity of births due to rising maternal age and obesity.

He said: "The age at which women are having their first baby has increased due to a variety of social, professional and financial reasons, and a woman is likely to be overweight or obese, the older she is," he added.

"While caesareans and induction of labour are safe procedures that can reduce harm from these complications, there may be risks involved for mother and baby.

"Women must be informed about the benefits and risks of the different ways to give birth, which will differ for each woman based on her individual case, pregnancy and medical history, so she can make an informed decision."

Percentage increase

When comparing deliveries by age group to a base year of 2007/08, NHS Digital said women in the 30-39 age group showed the largest percentage increase, up 7% in 2017/18, while deliveries among women under 20 have more than halved since 2007/08, with 18,548 in 2017/18.

The figures also show there were 626,000 deliveries in NHS hospitals during 2017/18, a decrease of 1.6% from 2016/17. This is the lowest reported level in the past 10 years.

The proportion of deliveries in 2017/18 where the mother was recorded as a current smoker at the booking appointment was 31% of women aged under 20. Among women aged 40 and over, 6% smoked.

Meanwhile, the proportion of women with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range was lowest for those aged under 20 (14%) and highest for those aged 40 and over (24%).

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