Pregnancy and Maternity

Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.

Health, Care and Wellbeing Needs

Pregnancy is a normal physiological process, but it increases specific susceptibilities and risks.

For most women, pregnancy and having a baby, is a happy and positive experience, but for some women they may experience considerable discomfort, ill-health and complications. All women need some information and support during pregnancy and postnatally, but some require additional support.

There are strong associations between the health of mothers and their socioeconomic circumstances, as well as the health of their baby.

Mental health

It is estimated up to 1 in 7 mothers will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or postnatally. Antenatal maternal stress and poor maternal health are more prevalent in more disadvantaged socioeconomic groups and have been found to impact on foetal development, with maternal depression contributing to low birth weight.

Domestic violence

One in four women experience domestic abuse or violence at some point during their lives. This may be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse. 30% of this abuse starts in pregnancy and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth.

In addition to the impact on the woman, domestic abuse during pregnancy puts her unborn child at risk by increasing the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth and injury or death to the baby.

Dental health

Some women get swollen and sore gums during pregnancy as the hormonal changes during pregnancy make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding.


Women with complex social problems, including mental health problems, report discrimination and judgemental behaviour from healthcare staff, which impacts on their on-going engagement with services.


Breastfeeding rates vary considerably across Devon at all stages of feeding. For example, initiation of breastfeeding varies from 66.3% in Mid Devon to 83.3% in the South Hams. Breastfeeding rates tend to be higher in black and minority ethnic groups, in older mothers, and in less deprived areas.

Further Information