Record number of babies born in 2021

A record number of babies were born in Australia in 2021. Overall, 315,705 babies were born – about 20,000 more than the year before (an increase of 6.7%) – according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Australia’s mothers and babies.

'In 2021, the birth rate was 61 births per 1,000 women of reproductive age (aged 15–44 years) – up from 56 births per 1,000 women in 2020, but lower than the most recent peak in 2007 (66 births per 1,000 women),’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms Deanna Eldridge.

Consistent with previous trends, more women are giving birth later in life. In 2021, around 1 in 4 women who gave birth were aged 35 years and over.

‘Average maternal age continues to increase for first-time mothers (from 28.4 years in 2011 to 29.7 years in 2021) and for those who have given birth previously (from 31.3 years in 2011 to 32.2 years in 2021),’ said Ms Eldridge.

Despite higher risks of health complications associated with later-in-life pregnancies, most mothers aged 35 years and above and their babies do well. In 2021, more than 9 in 10 babies born to women aged 35 years and over were born at-term and had a healthy birthweight (between 2,500 and 4,499 grams).

Fewer than 1 in 10 babies were born pre-term (8.2%) or had a low birthweight (6.3%). Overall, the proportions of pre-term and low birthweight babies have remained stable over the past decade.

In general, more Australian mothers (including First Nations mothers) are accessing antenatal care. In 2021, 80% of all mothers accessed antenatal care in their first trimester, and 95% had 5 or more antenatal care visits.

‘We continue to see a consistent downward trend in the number of women who smoke while pregnant. In 2021, 8.7% of mothers reported smoking during their pregnancy – down from 13% in 2011. Furthermore, more than 1 in 5 mothers who smoked at the start of their pregnancy quit after the first 20 weeks,’ said Ms Eldridge.

Mothers aged 35 years and above were less likely to report smoking during pregnancy (5.5%) compared with mothers aged 20 years and under (33%). In addition, mothers aged 35 years and above were more likely to attend an antenatal visit in the first trimester (81%) compared with those aged 20 years and under (68%).

Some states and territories need 12 months or more to prepare their data after the end of the data collection period. The process to finalise data can then require multiple rounds of data validation by the AIHW and resupply of data from states and territories. Data for 2021 were final for all states and territories on 17 April 2023 and were published on 29 June.

Also released today from the AIHW is the Congenital anomalies in Australia report containing information about the rates of congenital anomalies in babies born in 2017.

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