Short hospital stays for childbirth more common

More mothers had relatively short postnatal stays in hospital in 1995 than in previous years, according to Australia's mothers and babies 1995, a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The proportion of mothers staying less than 4 days was 35.5%, up from 20.2% just four years earlier.

The Director of the AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales, Dr Paul Lancaster, said 'factors associated with shorter periods of postnatal hospitalisation were younger maternal age, having already given birth, Aboriginality, spontaneous (not induced) delivery, and giving birth in maternity units of medium size.'

Dr Lancaster said that mothers without private health insurance were much more likely to have shorter stays than those with private health insurance: 'The proportion of those without health insurance in hospital postnatally for less than five days was two and a half times that of those who were insured.'

Australia's Mothers and Babies 1995 presents data collected from the 260,044 births notified to State and Territory perinatal data collections in that year. Other findings include:

  • The average age of all mothers was just over 28 years, continuing the upward trend of recent years - 5% were teenage mothers.
  • The average age of Indigenous mothers was 24 years, with a high proportion of teenage mothers (22.7%).
  • Although some mothers are deferring childbearing only 1 in 14 had their first baby at 35 years or older.
  • 1 in 5 births was by caesarean section, similar to 1994. Caesarean rates were higher among mothers aged 35-39 years who were privately insured and having their first baby.
  • Multiple pregnancies accounted for 1 in 72 (1.4%) of all confinements and 1 in 36 (2.8%) of all births.
  • 11.8% of Indigenous infants had a low birth weight (less than 2500g), almost twice the national average.

6 February 1998

Further information: Dr Paul Lancaster, NPSU, ph. 02 9382 1047 or 02 9427 0112 (ah).
For media copies of the report: Jocelyn Mann, NPSU, ph. 02 9382 1014, or Emma Needham, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1032.