Motherhood comes later for most

Australian women are continuing the trend to start their families later in life according to a report to be released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia's Mothers and Babies 1996 shows that the average age for first-time mothers in 1996 was 26.6 years, up from 25.8 in 1991. The average age for all mothers in 1996 was 28.6 years.

Five per cent of new mothers were teenagers; of these more than 4,000 (1.7%) were 17 years or younger.

Head of the AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales, Dr Paul Lancaster, said that while women are having their first babies later than in the past, most still start their families before they're 35. Only 1 in 13 mothers had their first baby when they were 35 or older.'

'Australia's Mothers and Babies 1996 also shows that 23% of mothers were born outside Australia. Asian-born mothers increased from 5% of all mothers in 1991 to over 7% in 1996. Mothers born in Vietnam made up 1.8% of all births in Australia that year, China 1.3% and the Philippines 1.1%.

The report also shows that 3% of all women who had babies in 1996 were Indigenous and their average age was 24.

Other facts contained in Australia's Mothers and Babies 1996 include:

  • almost 1 in 5 births were by caesarean section;
  • 40% of mothers stayed in hospital less than 4 days compared with 20% in 1991;
  • most babies are born in hospital, but more babies were born in birth centres than in previous years (about 2% of confinements);
  • more boys than girls are born in Australia - the national ratio was 106.2 boys for every 100 girls. The sex ratio for singleton births was higher than for twins and other multiple births.

31 March 1999


Further information: Dr Paul Lancaster, ph. 02 9382 1047/1014 or 02 9427 0112 (after hours).
For media copies of the report: Lena Searle, ph. 02 6244 1032.