Pregnancy, births and maternity: key points.


  • In 2016 there were 54,488 live births recorded across Scotland.

  • The fertility rate in 2016 was 53 births per 1,000 women. This has fallen from 86 births per 1,000 women in 1971.

  • The fertility rate in Scotland fell to its lowest level recorded in 2002 at 48 births per 1,000 women; however the rate has increased in subsequent years.

  • In Scotland, as in many other western European countries, many women are starting their reproductive lives later: the mean average age of mothers increased from 27 years in 1991 to 30 years from 2010 onwards.

  • Women aged 30 years and over accounted for over half (53.0%) of all births in 2016; almost a third (32.0%) were to mothers aged 30-34 years, 17.5% were to those aged 35-39 years, and 4.0% were to mothers aged 40 years and over. 

  • It is estimated that approximately one in five of all known pregnancies miscarry. The total figure will be higher than this due to miscarriages often occurring before the woman is aware she is pregnant.  The miscarriage may not be recorded or even recognised by the woman.

  • Provisional data show that miscarriage accounted for 4,663 hospital admissions in Scotland in 2015-6 (4.5 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years).

  • The stillbirth rate in 2015 was 3.8 per 1,000 total births, the lowest it has ever been in Scotland.

  • Maternal deaths are rare, with only 5 deaths associated with pregnancy in Scotland in 2016. 

  • In 2015/16, 28.2% of babies in Scotland were exclusively breastfed at 6-8 weeks; this figure has remained fairly static over the last decade.  A further 10.7% were fed a mixture of breast milk and formula milk.

  • Maternal health during and after pregnancy is protected under the Equality Act 2010, which makes pregnancy and maternity a 'protected characteristic', in the interests of both mother and child. 'Maternity' includes any period of maternity leave. Maternity leave can last for up to 1 year after giving birth.


Note: teenage pregnancies are discussed in more detail in the Sexual health section of this website.


Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in September 2017.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end September 2018.