Birth weight is an important indicator of foetal and neonatal health at both individual and population levels. There is significant evidence of the correlation between maternal health and social circumstances and birth weights which are outwith the normal birth weight range. Birth weight that is not within normal ranges also has a strong association with poor health outcomes in infancy, childhood and across the whole life course, including long term conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Increasing the proportion of babies with an appropriate for gestational age (AGA) birth weight should provide an indicator of improvements in reducing the incidence of small for gestational age (SGA) and large for gestational age (LGA). SGA and LGA are closely associated with maternal health behaviours and poor health and social circumstances and should provide a robust proxy measure in relation to the following improvement areas:
- Progress in reducing the health impact of socio-economic inequalities
- Progress in linking effectively with wider services improving the social circumstances of mothers, e.g. housing, social work
- Progress in prevention of maternal obesity and clinical management of obese women preconceptually and antenatally
- Progress in increasing smoking cessation rates and exposure to second hand and the clinical management of women and babies where cessation/exposure attempts fail and
- Progress in improving maternal nutrition, including uptake of vitamins and improved maternal nutrition amongst women eligible for healthy start
Progress in increasing alcohol abstention pre-conceptually and during pregnancy. Progress in managing the care of women who misuse alcohol and/or drugs.
As a universal public service for pregnant women, NHS antenatal healthcare has a critical role to play in ensuring all children get the best start in life. This role encompasses a wide spectrum of NHS activity from promotion of health, screening and prevention, to clinical treatment and care. To strengthen the role of the NHS, evidence indicates that there needs to be a greater focus on women from socially complex, high risk groups accessing and experiencing high quality antenatal health care. We have evidence that those women who most need antenatal care are currently less likely to have timely access and or benefit from high quality antenatal health care.
An antenatal access HEAT target has therefore been developed to be achieved by 2015. This target seeks to increase the number of women accessing high quality antenatal care by the 12th week gestation - especially women in high risk groups such as women under 20 and those living in the least affluent SIMD quintiles. Alongside the HEAT target a set of level three quality outcome indicators are being developed by the Refreshed Framework for Maternity Care's Implementation Group. Included within these indicators is a specific quality measure in relation to continuity of carer. Continuity of carer is critical to the formation of trusted relationships with women, thereby enabling maternity care staff to work with women using strengths based approaches. The quality indicators include specific health improvement measures including measures relating to maternal and infant nutrition, smoking cessation and alcohol and drugs use.
The Scottish Government has launched a number of focussed frameworks and programmes which aim to strengthen the contribution the NHS makes to outcomes for children in their early years. These include an Action Framework for Maternal and Infant Nutrition, a Refreshed Framework for Maternity Care, Reducing Antenatal Inequalities Guidance, Refreshed Hall 4 guidance, and the Family Nurse Partnership. These initiatives share the primary aim of improving maternal and child health outcomes and reducing inequalities in health outcomes between and across groups. Their implementation is crucial to realising the ambitions in the Healthcare Quality Strategy in relation to the early years, and the three social policy frameworks: Equally Well; Early Years Framework; and Achieving our Potential.
The proportion of babies with a healthy birth weight increased from 88.9% to 90.1% between 2001 and 2017, with most of the small increase occurring in the years 2008 and 2014. There has been no change in the last year.
The data is available at the bottom of this page.
What more do we know about this National Indicator?
The proportion of babies born with a healthy weight is similar for those living in the most and least deprived areas of Scotland (90.2% in the most deprived versus 90.4% in the least deprived).
The data is available at the bottom of this page.
Any difference within +/- 0.5 percentage points of last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. A decrease of 0.5 percentage points or more suggests the position is improving; whereas an increase of 0.5 percentage points or more suggests the position is worsening.
For information on general methodological approach, please click here.
Scotland Performs Technical Note
Wealthier and Fairer