Short hospital stays for childbirth more common

More Australian mothers are staying in hospital for less time after childbirth than in previous years, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Australia's Mothers and Babies 1998 shows the proportion of mothers staying less than 2 days was more than 10%, up from just over 3% seven years earlier, while those staying between two and four days also increased, from 35% to 53%.

Conversely, mothers staying five or more days dropped from 62% to 38% over the same period.

Head of the AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales, Dr Paul Lancaster, said factors associated with shorter postnatal stays were younger maternal age, previous births, Indigenous status, spontaneous (not induced) delivery, maternity units of medium size, and public status in hospital.

'When you look at the various factors, mothers admitted to hospital as public patients were much more likely to have shorter stays than those admitted as private patients', Dr Lancaster said.

'Almost 78% of mothers with public status stayed for less than five days while only 33% of mothers with private status did.'

'The differences in stay between public and private were consistent across all ages, number of previous births, Indigenous status, type of delivery and size of hospital.'

Australia's Mothers and Babies 1998 presents data collected from the 255,522 births notified to State and Territory perinatal data collections in that year. Other findings include:

  • More than 1 in 5 births (21.1%) were by caesarean section; South Australia had the highest caesarean rate (23.9%) and the Australian Capital Territory the lowest (18.8%); caesarean rates were higher among older mothers, those having their first baby, and those admitted as private patients.
  • The upward trend in multiple pregnancies continued to a new peak of 1.5% of all mothers.
  • About 1 in 11 mothers had their first baby at age 35 years or older; the average age for first-time mothers in 1998 was 27.0 years-continuing the upward trend in recent years.
  • More than 5% (12,920) of new mothers were teenagers; of these 4,088 were 17 years or younger.
  • The average age of all mothers in 1998 was 28.9 years; among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers it was 24.7 years, and for this group there was a high proportion of teenage mothers (21.3%).

23 February 2001


Further information: Dr Paul Lancaster, NPSU, tel. 02 9382 1047 or 02 9382 1014
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.