1 in 10 have first baby at 35 or older

One in ten mothers in Australia having their first baby were aged 35 years or more, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The AIHW's Australia's Mothers and Babies 2000 report shows that the average age of all mothers is 29.0 years, up from 27.9 years in 1991, and the average age of first-time mothers is also increasing (27.3 years, up from 25.8 years in 1991).

Dr Elizabeth Sullivan, Head of the AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales, said that 'the ACT and Victoria have clearly the greatest proportions of mothers aged 35 and over, with the Northern Territory and Tasmania having clearly the lowest'.

While maternal age is rising, the number of teenage births has hit an all-time low. The number of teenage mothers as a proportion of all women in the population is less than one-third of what it was 30 years ago.

There were approximately 12,700 teenage mothers or 1 in every 20 mothers who gave birth in Australia in 2000.

Indigenous mothers were more likely to have babies at a younger age, with nearly 1 in 4 Indigenous mothers being teenagers.

Dr Sullivan said that maternal age is 'an important risk factor for perinatal outcome, with adverse outcomes more likely to occur in younger and older mothers'.

Australia's Mothers and Babies 2000 presents data collected from 253,053 confinements of mothers notified to State and Territory perinatal data collections in that year. Other findings include:

  • Mothers continued to have relatively short postnatal stays in hospitals in 2000, with 11.4% of mothers staying for less than 2 days, and 58.9%of mothers staying between 2 and 4 days.
  • The fetal death rate of twins (19.3 per 1,000 births) was much higher than for singleton births (6.5 per 1,000). The fetal death rate for higher multiple births was 67.7 per 1,000 births.
  • The proportion of Indigenous mothers was 37.2% in the Northern Territory compared with the national average of 3.4%.
  • State and Territory caesarean rates ranged from 20.8% in the Northern Territory to 25.6% in Queensland.
  • The proportion of mothers who were born in a country other than Australia was nearly 23% in 2000.
  • Although month of birth was distributed very evenly throughout the year, more babies were born in Australia in October than in other months, with March the next most common. Fewer babies were born in December and February, the latter mainly because of February having fewer days than other months.

30 May 2003


Further information: Dr Elizabeth Sullivan, NPSU, tel. (02) 9382 1014
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032