COVID-19 Wider Impacts - Method of Delivery

Care for women around the time they are giving birth is an essential, time critical service that cannot be deferred. As such, it has been provided throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and maternity staff have not been redeployed to support other services. The way that some elements of this care are provided has changed in response to COVID-19 however, to minimise the risk of infection and to allow services to continue to provide safe care during times when a high number of staff may be off work, for example due to needing to isolate.

Guidance issued by the Scottish Government and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to maternity services at the height of the first wave of the pandemic noted that:

• It may be necessary for services to temporarily suspend the option for women to deliver at home or in midwife led units, and to concentrate delivery care within obstetric units.

• Additional restrictions on the use of water births were recommended.

• Care pathways for women requiring induction of labour should be amended to ensure the early stages of the induction process were delivered on an outpatient basis wherever possible.

• Services should consider deferring a planned induction of labour or elective caesarean section if a woman was isolating due to having COVID-19, or having been in contact with a case, if it was safe to do so.

• Services should support low risk women in the early latent phase of labour to remain at home wherever possible.

• In general, strict restrictions on visitors for patients in hospital were advised, however women giving birth could still be accompanied by their chosen birth partner.

The ‘method of delivery' refers to the way a baby is born. Different methods of delivery include spontaneous vaginal delivery (a natural birth); assisted vaginal delivery (including vaginal delivery by forceps or ventouse, or vaginal delivery of a breech baby); or a caesarean section (an operation to deliver the baby through a cut in the mother’s abdomen). A caesarean section can be elective (planned in advance and provided before labour has started) or emergency (unplanned, and usually but not always provided after labour has started).

This dataset shows information on method of delivery at Scotland and NHS Board level. Age and deprivation breakdown is also available at Scotland level.

This data is also available on the COVID-19 Wider Impact Dashboard. Additional data sources relating to this topic area are provided in the Links section of the Metadata below. Information on COVID-19, including stay at home advice for people who are self-isolating and their households, can be found on NHS Inform.

All publications and supporting material to this topic area can be found in the weekly COVID-19 Statistical Report. The date of the next release can be found on our list of forthcoming publications.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Source The data used for the method of delivery page comes from the Scottish Morbidity Record 02 (SMR02) database. An SMR02 record is submitted by maternity hospitals to Public Health Scotland (PHS) whenever a woman is discharged from an episode of day case or inpatient maternity care. From October 2019, maternity hospitals have also been asked to submit SMR02 records following attended homebirths.
Author PHS Maternity Team
Version 1.0
Last Updated October 5, 2023, 09:52 (BST)
Created March 16, 2021, 11:55 (GMT)
Contact Address Public Health Scotland, Gyle Square, 1 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9EB
Subject COVID-19 Impact, Maternity & Births
Frequency Monthly
Time frame of data and timeliness Data is shown for up to and including the most recent month for which SMR02 records are considered near complete. Data for the most recent months should be viewed as provisional.
Coverage Data is shown at all Scotland level, and for women living in each mainland NHS Board area.
Completeness Considered complete. There is generally a shortfall in the number of births when compared to NRS birth registrations.
Accuracy SMR02 data are subjected to validation on submission. The figures are compared to previous figures and expected trends.
Continuity of data Reports data from January 2018.
Concepts and definitions Please see description above. Additional information and commentary are available on the Wider Impacts Dashboard (see Links section).
Disclosure Disclosure control methods have been applied to the data in order to protect patient confidentiality.
Revision statement Figures contained within each publication may be subject to change in future releases as submissions may be updated to reflect a more accurate and complete set of data.
Official statistics designation Management Information Statistics
Relevance and key uses of the statistics The data are used to describe the current impact and the severity of COVID-19 in Scotland.
Format csv
Language English

PHS Weekly COVID-19 Report

COVID-19 Wider Impact Dashboard

NHS Inform – Assisted birth