The report states:
The percentage of live singleton babies born prematurely has increased from around 5% in the mid-1970s (when reliable records began) to around 6.5% now.
The percentage of live babies from a multiple pregnancy that are born prematurely has also increased: from around 33% in the mid-1970s to around 66% now.
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“This important report clearly sets out the pressing need to focus on reducing health inequalities at the very start of life, through promoting healthy lifestyles during pregnancy.
“There is a clear need to continue to focus on supporting more women to give up smoking before or during pregnancy and to support more women to enter pregnancy at a healthy weight and to manage their weight during pregnancy.”
The Euro-Peristat project publishes information on the health of mothers and babies across Europe. The latest report provides information on babies born in 2015 in 34 countries (including the four nations of the UK).
Of the 22 countries, Scotland had the third highest prematurity rate among singleton babies, with only Greece and Romania having higher rates. Scotland also had the second highest prematurity rate among babies from multiple pregnancies (twins or more)
Dr Mary Ross-Davie said:
“Higher rates of smoking and obesity are closely linked to wider social and financial inequalities in Scotland. As a country there is much we can do, not just in maternity services, but much wider across society in other ways, such as education in schools, focusing on positive preconception care, advice and support, the reduction of poverty and social exclusion and a real focus on improving the health of everyone in our communities.
“We are seeing a rise in births to older mothers, who tend to experience more complications in pregnancy such as pre-term births. It is important that we continue to improve our maternity services to ensure that all women get the best possible care and support.
“In order to provide really excellent care that focuses on these public health issues and supports women to make healthy changes to their behaviour where needed, midwives need to have adequate time, training and resources.
“We also need to have adequately funded local support services that can provide wider support to women who need it, including specialist smoking cessation services, benefits and financial advice services, housing services and dieticians.
“We hope that this report will be followed by a good level of Government resources to make the aspiration for a healthier Scotland a reality.’