“Attention should be paid to providing a comfortable and supportive environment to all women during labour to help them relax and feel secure. When it is possible to use fewer medical procedures in labour, with the woman’s agreement and without jeopardising safety, this should be the objective.”

Maternity Care Working Party Report


A service priority for improving health and outcomes

“Most women, in every country across the world, would prefer to give birth as physiologically as possible. For most women and babies, this is also the safest way to give birth, and to be born, wherever the birth setting. If routine interventions are eliminated for healthy women and babies, resources will be freed up for the extra staff, treatments and interventions that are needed when a laboring woman and her baby actually need help. This will ensure optimal outcomes for all women and babies, and sustainable maternity care provision overall.” (Professor Soo Downe, Professor in Midwifery Studies, 2014)

“RCM believes that a policy of maximising normality through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period and facilitating maternal choice offers short and long-term health and social benefits to mothers, children, families, and communities. As midwives are expert professionals skilled in supporting and maximising normality regardless of environment or type of birth, the role of midwife is integral to any model of care in providing safe and quality maternity care.”

(Mervi Jokinen, RCM Professional Advisor, 2014)

Estimated proportion of normal births* in the UK

We cannot provide comparable data across countries for normal births as there are different measures used in each country and the definitions are not the same. Here is an indication of the progress being made in each country for understanding the data and for achieving normalisation.



Normal births defined as “without induction, caesarean, instrumental delivery or  episiotomy, but including epidurals and other anaesthetic” (more detailed statistics)

Northern Ireland


In the absence of data from BirthChoiceUK,  an estimation was made taking into account an average induction rate based on data from England, Scotland and Wales. This is the least detailed dataset for quantifying the proportion of normal births.



Normal births defined as ” the proportion of live births during which the mother was not induced, was given no general or regional anaesthetic (such as an epidural) and gave birth without having a caesarean, or the use of forceps or ventouse and without having an episiotomy” (more detailed information). This is the most detailed dataset for quantifying the proportion of normal births.



Normal births defined as “as the percentage of women who give birth without having an induction, a caesarean or a birth involving forceps or ventouse” (more detailed statistics). Data may include episiotomy, epidurals and other anaesthetic.


*Data has been sourced from Birthchoice UK analysis for England, Scotland and Wales using varied definitions for normal birth. As data on normal births rates are not routinely collected in Northern Ireland, an estimation was made taking into account an average induction rate based on data from England, Scotland and Wales. Please note that these are to be used as guides for normal birth rates, are not comparable across countries and may be changed when new information is received. To download the visual representation, please click here.