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Are you Ms Average?

by Ann Charles on May 17th, 2013
Mathematical symbols for 'average' with the word 'Ms' highlighed to create the meaning, 'Ms Average'.

Of course not!  You are Ms (or Mr) Extraordinarily Fabulous.

I know this, because you are reading my blog.

However, I’ve been having a dig around at some statistics to see if I can create a profile for the ‘average’ woman giving birth in the UK.

Proper statisticians will probably faint at my analysis, but here goes anyway…

(Watch this space for more in the ‘Ms Pregnant’ series later… as well as some thoughts on what to consider if you definitely don’t want to be ‘average’!)

Meet Ms Average.

She’s 30, having her second child, and earns £26,500.

Her baby will be born at 39 weeks and 6 days.

Labour will last seven and a half hours.

Ms Average’s first name is Elizabeth.

When she found out she was pregnant, she went to see her Doctor but all her care after that was with NHS Midwives.

Elizabeth had the standard scans and blood tests offered by the NHS to check the baby’s growth and screen for abnormalities.

She’s decided to give birth in hospital.

She won’t have met the Midwife who’s with her in labour before she has the baby.

Her labour will start naturally (although one of her four other pregnant friends will have been induced).

Elizabeth will use gas and air at some point in her labour for pain relief.  She’ll also try breathing exercises.

She has around a one in three likelihood of having an epidural or using Pethidine (pain-relief injection).

She has a one in four chance of having a caesarean section.

Her partner will be with her during labour.

She’ll give birth vaginally, lying down in bed.

Her baby will weigh 7 1/2 lbs.

She’ll call him Harry.

Elizabeth wants to breastfeed Harry, and she’ll start off doing so.

However, by the time of her six-week check up, she’ll have switched to artificial milk (formula).

Overall, she’ll be quite pleased with her pregnancy and birth experience.

Her favourite chocolate bar is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

Were you surprised by anything on this list?  What do you think of this depiction of an ‘average’ UK birth?  Please let me know by leaving a comment in the box at the bottom of this post!

References and further geekery:


UK average earnings 2012 – BBC News report

Length of gestation – SpaceFem’s own research project

Length of labour for a second baby –

Most popular name for girls in UK (1983):  It was definitely Elizabeth.  I’ve read it in couple of books which I don’t have to hand.  You’ll just have to believe me.  (NB: Never trust anyone you’ve met off the internet…)

Midwife 4 Me / The Birth I Want video – knowing your Midwife before birth  (This is a powerful video.)

Baby weight at birth –

UK Baby names 2011 – Office for National Statistics

UK Breastfeeding initiation rates – UK Department of Health

Women’s experiences of NHS maternity care – Care Quality Commission

UK’s most popular chocolate bar – MoneySavingExpert and Daily Telegraph reports.

Note: Not all of the links above are to beautifully referenced academic information.  I have rounded/averaged some of the numbers a little to make the article easier to read.  Ms Average’s birth is based on my understanding of what the majority of women did according to the research studies and online articles I read.  It is unlikely to stand up to academic scrutiny.  This is just a bit of fun…

Anyone who disagrees with the chocolate survey results is requested to forward rival samples to me for further in-depth analysis.

  1. Claire Bennett permalink

    This is actually a good example of the different types of average…

    A pregnant person will be on their 1st, 2nd, …. crikey-th pregnancy.

    The mean number is one way of working out Patient Average (not sure which average you’ve used but this is probably it), but you might be more interested in ‘what is my next pregnant patient most likely to be like’. In that context, you’ll be after the mode (the most common value) which in terms of pregnancy number is 1 (every pregnant person must have a pregnancy #1, but not everyone has #2, not all of those have a #3 etc) So Patient Average could be on their first or second pregnancy depending on how you calculate your average.

    (You’ve now got me thinking about Markov chains)

    • Hi Claire!

      Um, er, eek. *nods*.

      So what I did was the following. I know it’s not mathematically correct, and we’re not quite comparing apples with apples… but it’s a start.

      Depending on what you read, UK average for giving birth is 29 and a bit and the average number of children is somewhere between 1-2. So I made Ms Average 30 and having baby number 2 (partly because I want to look at a second-time mum in a later post).

      Second baby gestation stats came from a not-academic-but-interesting website. Stats probably skewed to America. Not all of the women will have gone into labour spontaneously (America has a very high induction rate). The site’s graphs didn’t show a marked difference between the induced and spontaneous second-time births, howevers.

      Seven and a half hour labour – an in-the-middle amount of what a couple of websites suggest for labour duration of second-time mums (there are a lot of variables).

      Elizabeth – this fact is in my brain from ‘year you were born’ books and such like. The internet doesn’t go back far enough for a more official source 😉

      Seeing Doctor / having scans – direct from the CQC study. Figures taken were what the majority did (this covered all mothers, not just second-timers).

      Hopsital birth – BirthChoiceUK and CQC study. Again, the majority percentage was taken.

      Knowing the Midwife who assists you in labour – the YouTube video says that 3 out of 4 women will not have met their Midwife before they have their baby.

      Stats around what happens to Ms Average in labour – mixture of BirthChoiceUK and CQC. Pain relief is interesting – for America, the epidural rate is about 70%. It’s lower here (so Ms Average didn’t have one) but of course anyone who has a caesarean also has some form of spinal block applied and I’m not sure how that gets counted in the stats. And it’s possible for a woman to have more than one form of pain relief in labour (e.g. uses breathing exercises and then has an injection and later chooses an epidural). Therefore, I chose the most common options according to the CQC report.

      Baby weight – split the difference between weights on the midwivesonline website. Not very scientific, but it doesn’t seem ridiculous, either.

      Harry – ONS website. Most popular boys’ name for 2011 (latest that’s available, as data released in 2012). Couldn’t find any info for whether there are more boys or girls born in the UK at the moment, and it’s so nearly 50:50 when you can find data that I decided Elizabeth was going to have a boy to even things up a bit and give me a different name to talk about!

      Breastfeeding initiation and then no longer feeding at six weeks – Dept of Health quarterly figures. This will be all mothers, not just second-timers.

      Six-week check-up – I cheated here, and didn’t split the difference. The data was actually collected for check-ups which take place between 6-8 weeks. I should have said ‘by seven weeks’ if I was splitting the difference properly but this check is colloquially known as the ‘six week check-up’ no matter when it takes place, so it didn’t seem worth adding unnecessary confusion as the result of no-longer breastfeeding is similar no matter when in the six-eight week timeframe the check takes place.

      Chocolate stats – from the two articles mentioned. Survey not confined to pregnant women.

      So as you can see that’s not going to get me a Doctorate anytime soon. The women aren’t all of the same ‘type’ and not all of the information comes from academic sources. However, the picture that we get doesn’t seem unrealistic, which I hope is good enough to get people thinking about whether the ‘average’ picture is the one they want for themselves. I personally was surprised by the figures to do with birth position, for example.

      I hope that helps and that I haven’t sent your maths geek brain into a tizz from my birth geek brain! 😀

      Thanks for taking the time to comment,

      Ann xx

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