• Print

released: 13 Dec 2012 author: AIHW, Li Z, Zeki R, Hilder L & Sullivan EA media release

In 2010, 294,814 women gave birth to 299,563 babies in Australia. The average age of mothers has increased gradually, from 29.2 years in 2001 to 30.0 years in 2010. The caesarean section rate has shown an upward trend over the last 10 years, increasing from 25.4% nationally in 2001 to a peak of 31.6% in 2010.

ISSN 1321-8336; ISBN 978-1-74249-387-9; Cat. no. PER 57; 132pp.; $22

printed copy


Australia's mothers and babies 2010 is the twentieth annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia. In 2010, a total of 294,814 women gave birth to 299,563 babies, which was a 0.1% increase in the total number of births compared with 2009.


The average maternal age in 2010 was 30.0 years compared with 29.2 years in 2001. About 42.1% of women were having their first baby and the average age for first-time mothers was 28.0. Of all first-time mothers in 2010, 13.9% were aged 35 or older, compared with 10.7% in 2001. In the four jurisdictions for which data on assisted reproductive technology (ART) were available, ART was used by 4.1% of women who gave birth.

Antenatal factors

Smoking while pregnant was reported by 13.5% of all mothers and by 36.7% of teenage mothers. Of women who reported smoking during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, 17.2% did not report smoking during the second 20 weeks. Two-thirds (65.0%) of women attended at least one antenatal visit before 14 weeks gestation, although 11.9% of women did not receive antenatal care until after 20 weeks. Of women who gave birth at 32 weeks gestation or more, 96.3% attended at least one antenatal visit, with 91.1% attending five or more.

Indigenous mothers

About 3.9% of women who gave birth during 2010 identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Indigenous mothers were younger than non-Indigenous mothers; their average age in 2010 was 25.2 years, compared with 30.2 years for non-Indigenous mothers. Smoking during pregnancy was reported by half (49.3%) of Indigenous mothers. Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers who reported smoking during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, 9.6% did not report smoking during the second 20 weeks, which was half that of non- Indigenous mothers (18.4%).

Labour and delivery

Onset of labour was spontaneous for 56.0% of women giving birth. Most women (68.4%) had a vaginal birth and, of these, 82.4% did not involve the use of instruments. Overall, 31.6% of women gave birth by caesarean section in 2010, a 0.1% rise from 2009. The caesarean section rate among first-time mothers was 32.6% in 2010. Among women who had already given birth at least once, 28.1% had had a previous birth by caesarean section.

Baby outcomes

In 2010, 8.3% of babies were born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) and 0.8% post-term (42 weeks gestation or more). Overall, 6.2% of liveborn babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and this nearly doubled (11.0%) among mothers who smoked during pregnancy. Just over one-quarter (26.3%) of babies required some form of resuscitation at birth, although 67.0% of these required only suction or oxygen therapy. The perinatal death rate was 9.3 per 1,000 births in 2010, which comprised fetal and neonatal death rates of 7.4 per 1,000 births and 2.9 per 1,000 live births respectively.

Recommended citation

AIHW, Li Z, Zeki R, Hilder L & Sullivan EA 2012. Australia's mothers and babies 2010. Perinatal statistics series no. 27. Cat. no. PER 57. Canberra: AIHW.