An important life stage for many Australians is when they become a parent. For mothers, the health of a mother and baby can be affected by (Bywood, Raven & Erny-Albrecht 2015, WHO 2015):

  • a mother’s age
  • where she lives
  • the socioeconomic conditions in which she lives
  • the presence of pre-existing or pregnancy-related medical conditions
  • risky behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Data on almost every birth in Australia are collected by midwives and other birth attendants and included in the National Perinatal Data Collection at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Among Australian women (AIHW 2019c; AIHW 2019d):

  • In 2017, 301,095 women gave birth to 305,667 babies in Australia—an increase of 4% since 2007 (289,499 women).
  • The rate of women giving birth decreased from 66 per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15–44 years) in 2007 to 60 per 1,000 in 2017.
  • The average age of all women who gave birth continues to rise— from 29.9 years in 2007, to 30.6 years in 2017.
  • 1 in 10 women (29,267 or 9.9%) who gave birth in 2017 smoked at some time during their pregnancy, a decrease from 15.4% in 2010.
  • After adjusting for age, 44.3% of Indigenous women who gave birth in 2017 smoked at some time during their pregnancy. Indigenous women were 3.7 times as likely to smoke at some time during their pregnancy as non-Indigenous women.
  • After adjusting for age, smoking at any time during pregnancy for Indigenous mothers declined from 49.4% in 2010 to 44.3% in 2017.
  • 7 in 10 (72%) mothers received antenatal care in the first trimester in 2017 compared with 6 in 10 (63%) in 2010.
  • Almost half (46%) of women who gave birth in 2017 were overweight or obese at their first antenatal visit.
  • 2 in 3 mothers had vaginal births, and the remaining 1 in 3 had caesareans in 2017. Mothers aged 40 and over were almost 3 times as likely to deliver by caesarean section as teenage mothers (54% and 20%, respectively).

For more information see Mothers and babies.