More births to older mother trend still continuing

The average age of mothers giving birth in Australia is just under 30 years of age, and the average age of first-time mothers is around 28 years, according to the 16th annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia's mothers and babies 2006, shows that the average age of mothers giving birth was 29.8 years in 2006, compared with 28.7 years in 1997.

Around 21% of mothers were aged 35 or over in 2006, up from 15% in 1997.

'We're also seeing more women deferring starting a family, with 1 in 7 first births being to women aged 35 or older, compared with 1 in 12 in 1997', said Paula Laws of the AIHW's National Perinatal Statistics Unit.

While the age of women giving birth has risen, so has the number of births in Australia, with 277,436 women giving birth to 282,169 babies in 2006.

'There were 9,750 more births in 2006 than in 2005,' Ms Laws said.

Over 10,000 births in 2006 were to mothers of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, making up 3.7% of all mothers.

Caesarean section births continued to rise, with 31% of mothers giving birth by caesarean section in 2006 compared with 20% in 1997.

Around 84% of mothers giving birth in 2006 who had previously had a caesarean section had a further caesarean section.

The median length of stay in hospital for childbirth was 3.0 days, and was longer for women who had a caesarean section (5.0 days).

Of babies born in 2006:

  • 8% were preterm (less than 37 weeks gestation), compared with 7% in 1997
  • 6% of live-born babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams)
  • 15% of liveborn babies were admitted to a special care nursery or neonatal intensive care unit

The perinatal death rate (deaths of babies before or up to 28 days after birth) was 10.3 per 1,000 births. The most common cause of perinatal death was congenital abnormality.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Further information: Paula Laws, tel. 02 9382 1014.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.