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The average age of first time mothers continues to rise, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Australia's mothers and babies 2010, shows that in 2010, the average age of women having their first baby was 28 years, up slightly from 27.9 the previous year, and 27.5 in 2001.
'Of all first time mothers in 2010, about 14% were aged 35 or older, compared with 11% in 2001,' said Professor Elizabeth Sullivan from the AIHW's National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit.
The average age of all mothers in 2010 was 30.0 years, compared with 29.2 in 2001. This was higher in women who gave birth in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (30.7 and 30.9 years respectively) and lower in the Northern Territory (27.9).
'The proportion of older mothers, aged 35 and over, has continued to increase from 17.5% in 2001 to 23% in 2010, while mothers aged 40 and over made up about 4% of women giving birth in 2010,' Professor Sullivan said.
There were 562 women aged 45 and over who gave birth in 2010, accounting for 0.2% of women who gave birth.
In 2010, 294,814 women gave birth to 299,563 babies, which was a 0.1% increase on 2009. The number of births has been increasing since 2001, when the lowest number of births during the past decade was reported (254,326).
'Of the women who gave birth in 2010, about 42% were having their first baby,' Professor Sullivan said.
In the four jurisdictions for which data on assisted reproductive technology (ART) were available, ART was used by about 4% of women who gave birth.
Onset of labour was spontaneous for 56% of women giving birth. Most women (68%) had a vaginal birth and, of these, 82% did not involve the use of instruments.
'Overall, 31.6% of women gave birth by caesarean section in 2010. This has not changed from 2009,' Professor Sullivan said.
About 6% of liveborn babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and this was almost twice as high among mothers who smoked during pregnancy.
Smoking while pregnant was reported by 14% of all mothers and by 37% of teenage mothers. About half of Indigenous mothers reported smoking during their pregnancy.
'Indigenous mothers were also generally younger than non-Indigenous mothers, with an average age of about 25 years,' Professor Sullivan said.
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, 13 December 2012
Further information: Professor Elizabeth Sullivan, AIHW NPESU, tel. (02) 9382 1064, mob. 0439 994 820
Full report: Australia's mothers and babies 2010