Births provide a key component in monitoring population growth rates within the city. Despite a predicted increase in Southampton’s population to approximately 270,000 by 2040 from the current population of approximately 260,000, Southampton has seen a decrease in both fertility rates and the number of births. Whilst the number of births remains higher than the national average (11.0 per 1,000 population in Southampton compared to 10.3 nationally), both the general fertility rate at 48.3 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 44 years, and total fertility rate, at 1.4 children per woman, remain below the national average of 55.3 and 1.6 respectively
Across the city, general fertility rates ranged from 30.4 in Swaythling to 71.6 in Redbridge during 2020, although year on year changes appear to fluctuate, likely reflecting differences in characteristics across the city such as deprivation and mother’s age. Unsurprisingly areas highly populated with students have both low general fertility and crude birth rates. More information on the population pages.
Health inequalities are differences in health outcomes between groups of people due to social, geographical, biological or other factors. One of the main methods of measuring health inequalities is through measuring health outcomes for each deprivation quintile. Understanding how fertility rates vary with deprivation across the city is important. Deprivation is linked to a number of infant health issues such as low birth weight, higher rates of hospital admissions, reduced breastfeeding and high smoking in pregnancy rates.
In 2020, general fertility rate (GFR) analysis by deprivation quintiles showed the most deprived Southampton quintile has a rate of 57.2 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 44 years, this is 1.94 times higher than the least deprived quintile (29.5 per 1000 females aged 15 to 44 years). Between 2014 and 2020, there has been on overall decrease in the GFR in both the most and least deprived quintiles in the city. There has been a steeper consistent decrease in the GFR within the 20% most deprived quintile, compared to an overall less steep decrease (despite fluctuations) within the 20% least deprived quintile meaning the gap between the two has reduced during the time period. More information can be found on the health inequalities and wider determinants pages.
Mothers’ country of birth
Understanding a mother’s background can allow for tailoring of service provision to ensure a healthier antenatal, delivery and postnatal period for both mother and child. Additionally, mothers from different countries, can have different fertility rates. Being aware of the distribution of UK born and non-UK born mothers and changes in migration can help with maternity service planning and school pupil place planning.
Nationally it has been observed that women born outside the UK have higher total fertility rates, 2.0 for non-UK-born mothers compared to 1.5 for UK-born mothers. This could be beneficial to the city as the current total fertility rate of 1.6 children per woman is below the replacement rate of 2.1 (the average number of children a couple would need to have to sustain population levels without migration), which may cause longer-term economic issues.
In 2020, 38% of live births are born to Southampton mothers who were born outside of the UK. Southampton has a higher proportion of live births born to non-UK-born mothers than its local neighbours (17% in Hampshire and 9% on the Isle of Wight) reflecting the diversity of Southampton’s community. Of the live births in Southampton, 81% were to mothers born in Europe (including the UK), including 18% were from EU member states.
Age of mother
Age is the single biggest factor affecting a woman's chance to conceive and have a healthy baby. Babies born to mothers under 20 years of age face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions. A woman's fertility starts to reduce in her early 30s, and more so after the age of 35. The risks of pregnancy complications increase as women age, including a greater risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, multiple pregnancy, cancer, needing a caesarean or assisted delivery or a child that might have learning disabilities.
For the first time, 2020 saw Southampton’s percentage of live births to mothers under the age of 18 reach the national average of 0.6%, falling by over half from 1.5% in 2013. A larger decrease than that seen nationally (0.5%) and the second largest decrease both compared to its local neighbours and Office for National Statistics (ONS) comparators. More information on teenage conceptions is available on the sexual health page.
Contrastingly Southampton has the lowest percentage of live births to mothers aged over 45 years at 0.2% compared to all its comparators, although this remains statistically similar to both the South East region and national averages of 0.4%. The statistics of the proportion of birth within these two age groups are likely to reflect Southampton’s relatively young population.
Low birth weight
Low birth weight is defined as a recorded birth weight under 2.5kgs. Low birth weight among infants is strongly associated with infant mortality, as well as disability and disease throughout child and adulthood, which can have wider impacts such as reduced educational achievement. Southampton has a statistically similar percentage of live term births with a low birth weight to the national average, 2.6% compared to 2.9%. Since 2006 this has fluctuated either side of the national figure but has decreased overall. Although Southampton has the highest percentage of low births compared to its local neighbours, it is in the lower half of its ONS comparator group.
Across the city the percentage of low birth weight babies range from 1.1% in Bassett and 5.8% in Bevois. However, Bevois appears to be an outlier, with the second highest percentage at 3.2% in Redbridge. A potential explanation for this figure is the higher proportion of births to women of Asian ethnicity in Bevois; research has shown Asian women tend to give birth to babies with a smaller weight. Low birth weight is closely associated with deprivation, with babies born into the most deprived quintile are 3.2x more likely to be underweight than their counterparts born into the least deprived quintile.
Smoking during pregnancy is linked with low birthweight along with a number of other health problems for newborn babies. In Southampton smoking at midwifery booking has reduced significantly from 20.2% in 2008/09 to 14.6% in 2020/21.
During 2020/21, 12.4% of women who smoked at the time of midwifery booking had a low birth weight baby and 7.6% of mothers had a premature baby. By the time of delivery, the number of women who continue to smoke fell to 10.7% in Southampton. This is the first time Southampton has been statistically similar to the national rate of 9.6%, following a local decreasing trend since 2010/11.
The births dashboard presents a range of data on births, to provide intelligence to help drive strategic decision making. Analysis includes benchmarking against statistical neighbours and trends over time for all indicators included. The population dashboard presents a range of population data to provide intelligence on Southampton's resident and GP registered population to help drive strategic decision making. Data in these dashboards is compiled from a range of publicly available sources.
Maternal, child and young people's health page
National data sources
ONS - Births by parents’ country of birth, England and Wales: 2020