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Australian women continue to wait longer to have children, with the average maternal age reaching 30.0 years in 2009, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia’s mothers and babies 2009, shows that the average age of women who gave birth in Australia has increased steadily from 29.0 years in 2000 to reach 30.0 years in 2009.

‘The proportion of mothers aged 35 and over also continues to rise—up from 17.1% in 2000 to 22.8% in 2009,’ said AIHW National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit spokesperson Associate Professor Elizabeth Sullivan.

‘And mothers aged 40 and over made up 4.0% of women giving birth in 2009 compared with 2.6% in 2000, while mothers aged 45 and over continued to make up about 0.2% of all women giving birth with 556 women aged 45 and over giving birth in 2009.

The number of first-time mothers aged over 35 also increased—from 10.3% in 2000 to 13.7% in 2009.

Indigenous mothers are younger than non-Indigenous mothers—their average age was 25.3.

Nationally, the proportion of teenage mothers remained steady at 4.0% in 2009 compared with 4.2% in 2008, which was less than the 5.0% proportion in 2000.

The report shows that 294,540 women gave birth to 299,220 babies in Australia in 2009—a 0.8% increase in the total number of births compared to the previous year and a 16.3% increase on the total number in 2000. The number of births has been increasing since 2001, when the lowest number of births during the past decade was reported.

Overall, 6.2% of liveborn babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and this nearly doubled (10.8%) among mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

Smoking while pregnant was reported by 14.5% of all mothers, by 37.0% of teenage mothers and almost half (49.6%) of Indigenous mothers.

In 2009, 863 women had a homebirth, representing 0.3% of all women who gave birth.

In the four jurisdictions where data on assisted reproductive technology (ART) or IVF were available (Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory), 3.6% of women who gave birth received ART treatment.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Canberra, 21 December 2011

Further information: Associate Professor Elizabeth Sullivan, AIHW NPESU, tel. (02) 9382 1064, mob. 0439 994 820    

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Australia’s mothers and babies 2009