Maternal behaviours



  • Each year there are around 4,000 births to Wakefield mums
  • Fewer women in Wakefield are smoking in pregnancy (18.6% in 2015/16 compared to 23.9% in 2010/11); however Wakefield remains an outlier when compared to our neighbours and the national average (10.6% in 2015/16)
  • More women in Wakefield are starting to breastfeed their baby (63.9% 2014/15 compared to 60.6% in 2010/11); but rates remain lower than the national average (74.3% 2014/15) and women do not breastfeed their baby for very long (35.1% are breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks, compared to over 60% who start to breastfeed)
  • Women living in the most deprived areas are more likely to smoke in pregnancy and be obese, they are also less likely to breastfeed their babies.


The Population

On average there are around 4,000 births each year in Wakefield. Most women are aged between 20 to 30 years when they give birth. Birth rates are higher in the more deprived areas in Wakefield. More information about births can be found on the following here.

Maternal behaviours such as smoking, breastfeeding and maternal weight have an impact on the health and wellbeing of both the mother and baby.

Smoking in pregnancy is the single biggest change that can improve the health of mum and baby. Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for still birth, it also increases the risk of serious pregnancy related complications and complications during labour; it also increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, sudden unexpected death in infancy, and is associated with respiratory problems such as pneumonia and asthma which may lead to death.

Breast feeding saves lives, protecting the health of babies and mothers immediately and over time. It reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death (SID) , and babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop infections. Longer term benefits of breast milk include a reduced risk of becoming obese, developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. For mothers there is a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers and hip fractures in later life.

Increased maternal weight (Body Mass Index – BMI) is linked to increased health risks for the mother and child, both during and after pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2) during pregnancy may reduce the risk of complications such as miscarriage, an induced or longer labour and also reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes for the child, such as congenital anomalies, prematurity and fetal death.

Women living in deprived areas are more likely to have maternal behaviours that are detrimental to their own health and the health of their baby. Younger mum’s in deprived areas are more likely to smoke and not breastfeed, older mum’s in deprived areas are more likely to be overweight or obese.


The Challenges

Where data is available, it shows that Wakefield has historically performed poorly on the different maternal behaviours compared to the national average and other similar areas. Areas considered to have similar social and economical features to Wakefield include Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, a full list of similar areas can be accessed here.

    • Smoking in pregnancy – rates are improving but at a slower rate than in other areas. Wakefield has a significantly higher rate than the national average, and at 18.6% the rate remains one of the highest in the region.
    • Breastfeeding – rates for initiating breastfeeding and breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks remain low in Wakefield, 6 out of 10 women initiate breastfeeding, around 3 out of 10 women are still breastfeeding when their baby is 6 weeks old.
    • Maternal weight – data on maternal weight is not routinely collected in the UK; it is not possible to compare Wakefield with other areas.


The Inequality

Not all health conditions affect the population in the same way, some populations experience worse health than others, often these populations also have higher levels of risk factors associated with poor health. Younger women from poorer backgrounds are more likely to exhibit maternal behaviours that have a detrimental effect on their own health and the health of their baby. The exception to this is maternal obesity, where older women from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be obese.

Communities such as Airedale and Ferry Fryston, Knottingley, South Elmsall and South Kirkby and Wakefield West have higher levels of women smoking in pregnancy and maternal obesity and fewer women breastfeeding. These areas reflect some of the poorest areas in Wakefield district.

Service Provision

0-19 service

Maternity services provided by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust

Yorkshire Smokefree Wakefield is a local free NHS service for pregnant women to support you to quit smoking while you are pregnant and continue to stay smokefree once your baby is born.  They can also provide support for partners and family members too:

Yorkshire Smokefree Wakefield, Agbrigg Community Centre, Montague Street, Wakefield, WF1 5BB Telephone: 01977 465 449

Smoking cessation midwife champion

Every contact counts Public Health Lead

Wakefield weight management provision/exercise referral scheme

Community Infant Feeding clinics: run across the district, provided in partnership by FAB, Midwifery and Health Visiting Services, for mums experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding / needing advice and support with breastfeeding. Details listed on FAB website or ring 01924 851 901 

Breastfeeding Friendly Scheme: More than 60 organisations including GP surgeries, coffee shops, libraries, and community centres have signed up for the Wakefield Breastfeeding Friendly scheme. The scheme is set up to ensure there are places in the district which are recognisably supportive to families who breastfeed their babies.

 Breastfeeding Friendly Schools: Currently trying to link the Breastfeeding Friendly Scheme with schools – research suggests that attitudes towards baby feeding are often formed in childhood. Our experience is that many young children are unaware that mothers can feed their baby themselves. The aim is to encourage schools to sign up to a breastfeeding friendly policy and display a breastfeeding friendly sticker to let new mums know they are welcome to feed their baby if baby gets hungry during a visit to school e.g. parent assemblies, sports days etc. There are lots of other ways for schools to be breastfeeding friendly – for example using resources that reflect breastfeeding as the cultural norm.

 Breastfeeding Peer support and Promotion Service provided by FAB incorporates:

    • Antenatal support  – Visit to mothers prior to giving birth on a one to one basis . Also run independent session for expectant parents, and their supporters, who are interested in finding out more about breastfeeding. Attend existing antenatal groups by invitation.
    • Hospital support at Pinderfields General Hospital –FAB Peer Supporters work on the maternity wards between the hours of 9am-3pm 7 days per week to support all breastfeeding mums.
    • One to one home visits – FAB aim to contact every breastfeeding mother within 48 hours of discharge to offer breastfeeding support tailored to individual needs.
    • Daily Drop-in at FAB – 19-20 Westmorland House, Brook Street, Wakefield, WF1 1QW (Opposite Olde England Fisheries)
    • 24 hour helpline Breastfeeding Support Groups –Details of these groups can be found on our FAB website  FAB offer a 24 hour helpline for all mums in Wakefield, this is manned by trained staff and volunteers on a voluntary basis and the number is 01924 851901.
    • Online Forum – New online forum for parents to access peer support online and also chat to other parents.
    • Peer Supporter Training – FAB offer training opportunities to women who have breastfed and would like to support other mothers.

Community Assets

  • FAB Centre – 19-20 Westmorland House, Brook Street, Wakefield, WF1 1QW (Opposite Olde England Fisheries)
  • Aqua natal/ pilates antenatal classes


Resources & Evidence