What’s the latest when it comes to Australian mothers and their babies?
Here are the most recent stats and trends from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on pregnancy, childbirth, mothers and babies.
1. More women are giving birth.
In 2016, 310,247 women gave birth in Australia—an increase of 12% since 2006 (277,440 women).
2. The average age of all women who gave birth continues to rise.
It was 30.5 in 2016, compared with 29.8 in 2006. The median age was slightly higher, at 31 years in 2016.
3. The rate of multiple pregnancies has fallen.
In 2016, multiple pregnancies represented 1.4% of all pregnancies. Almost all multiple pregnancies (98.3%) were twins, while a small proportion (1.7%) were other multiples (triplets, quadruplets or higher).
4. Most mothers are living in the city.
Most mothers lived in major cities (73%) and most were themselves born in Australia (65%). Meanwhile, around 4.4% of all mothers who gave birth in 2016 were Indigenous.
5. Most expectant mothers attend planned visits with healthcare professionals.
Almost all mothers (99.9%) who gave birth in 2016 had at least one antenatal visit. Ninety-four percent had five or more visits, 85% had seven or more visits, and 57% had 10 or more visits. Mothers living in the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) areas began antenatal care later in pregnancy.
6. Smoking during pregnancy continues to fall.
One in 10 mothers (30,104 or 9.9%) who gave birth in 2016 smoked at some time during their pregnancy, a decrease from 14.6% in 2009. In Indigenous mothers, 42% smoked in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, compared with 11% of non-Indigenous mothers. Babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to be small for gestational age.
7. Almost half of mothers are overweight or obese at their first antenatal visit.
Pregnant women who are obese have an increased risk of thromboembolism, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, post-partum haemorrhage (bleeding) and wound infections. They are also more likely to deliver via caesarean section. Babies of mothers who are obese have higher rates of congenital anomaly, stillbirth and neonatal death, compared with babies of mothers who are not obese.
8. One third of women have caesarean births.
Two-thirds (66%) of mothers had vaginal births, while one-third (34%) had caesareans—up from 31% in 2006. Mothers aged 40 and over were almost three times as likely to deliver by caesarean section as teenage mothers (53% and 18%).
9. Nearly 4 in 5 received pain relief during labour.
Of the 244,925 mothers who had labour in 2016, 78% had pain relief. The most common types were inhaled nitrous oxide (55%), followed by regional analgesic (36%) and systemic opioids (17%). Mothers who did not have pain relief were more likely to be older, to have given birth before, to be Indigenous, and to live in the lowest SES areas or more remote areas, compared with those who had pain relief.
10. 1 in 12 babies are born pre-term.
In 2016, the average gestational age for all babies was 38.6 weeks, with the vast majority (91%) born at term (37–41 weeks).
See the full AIHW report here