The rate of women undergoing caesarean section has stabilised for the first time in more than ten years according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'This is the first time in the last decade that the rate of caesarean section has not markedly increased,' said Associate Professor Elizabeth Sullivan of the AIHW's National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales.
According to the report, Australia's mothers and babies 2007, there was only a 0.1% rise from 30.8% in 2006 to 30.9% in 2007.
New in this report is information on the rate of caesarean section for all women giving birth by caesarean section for the first time. In 2007, the primary caesarean section rate was 21%.
'This is an important measure to monitor as it is a risk factor for subsequent caesarean births, with 83% of women who had previously give birth by caesarean section giving birth by caesarean section in 2007,' Associate Professor Sullivan said.
The rate of primary caesarean births was higher among first time mothers at 32% compared with 10% for mothers who had previously given birth.
The report also shows more women are having babies and more are delaying having children until later in life.
'The baby boom continued with over 12,000 more births in 2007 than in 2006 and 14% more than in 2004,' she said.
'The average age of women who gave birth in 2007 was 29.9 years, a year older than in 1998 and more than 14% of first-time mothers were 35 or older, compared with 9% in 1998,' she said.
About 3% of women who gave birth in 2007 received assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment and the average age of women who gave birth after ART was 34 years.
Of women who gave birth, three quarters had some type of analgesia administered. The most common type of analgesia was nitrous oxide, followed by epidural or caudal analgesia.
The perinatal death rate was 10.3 per 1,000 births and fetal and neonatal deaths were 7.4 per 1,000 births and 2.9 per 1,000 live births respectively. Young maternal age, maternal Indigenous status and multiple births were associated with higher rates of perinatal deaths.
The most common cause of perinatal death was congenital abnormality (24%) and for term singleton babies, unexplained antepartum death (25%), congenital abnormality (17%) and hypoxic peripartum death (14%).
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