Is maternity care in Scotland equitable? Results of a national maternity care survey

Helen Cheyne, Andrew Elders, David Hill, Emma Milburn

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Objective: High-quality maternity care is key to long-term improvements in population health. However, even within developed welfare systems, some mothers and babies experience poorer care and outcomes. This study aimed to explore whether women’s experiences of maternity care in Scotland differs by their physical or sociodemographic characteristics.

Design: Secondary analysis of the 2015 Scottish Maternity Care Experience Survey. The questionnaire was based on the Care Quality Commission English maternity survey. Setting National Health Service maternity care in Scotland.

Participants: The survey was distributed to 5025 women who gave birth in Scotland during February and March 2015 with 2036 respondents (41%).

Main outcome measures: The questionnaire explored aspects of care processes and interpersonal care experienced from the first antenatal contact (booking) to 6 weeks following the birth. The analysis investigated whether experiences were related to age, parity, deprivation, rurality, self-reported general health or presence of a health condition that limited daily activities. Analysis used mixed effect multilevel models incorporating logistic regression.

Results: There were associations between parity, age and deprivation with gestation at booking indicating that younger women, women from more deprived areas and multiparous women booked later. Women reporting generally poorer health were more likely to describe poorer care experiences in almost every domain including continuity, pain relief in labour, communication with staff, support and advice, involvement in decision making, confidence and trust and overall rating of care.

Conclusions: We found few differences in maternity care experience for women based on their physical or socioeconomic characteristics. Our findings indicate that maternity care in Scotland is generally equitable. However, the link between poorer general health after childbirth and poorer experience of maternity care is an important finding requiring further study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e023282
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2019


  • care experience
  • demographic characteristics
  • equity
  • maternity care
  • quality of care
  • questionnaire


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