Highlights

  • In 1991, 256,634 babies born to 253,141 mothers were notified to perinatal data collections in the States and Territories. These included 898 mothers who had home births and 7,027 Aboriginal mothers.
  • There were 14,923 teenage mothers, including 1,680 who were 16 years or younger and another 1,172 aged 17 years. Although information on induced abortions is lacking in most States, South Australian data indicate that about 1 in 5 teenagers become pregnant and 1 in 10 give birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years.
  • The regions with the largest number of Aboriginal mothers were Queensland (2,148), Western Australia (1,460), New South Wales (1,385) and the Northern Territory (1,209). Aboriginal mothers were younger and had higher parity than other mothers. The average age of Aboriginal mothers was 23.4 years, 4.5 years less than for all mothers in Australia. Of Aboriginal mothers of known parity having babies in 1991, 26.0 per cent had at least three previous confinements compared with 9.9 per cent of all mothers.
  • The proportion of mothers with private accommodation in hospital varied from 40.4 per cent in Queensland to 59.7 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • More than 1 in 5 (22.4 per cent) mothers were born in other countries, including 5.8 per cent in the United Kingdom, 5.2 per cent in Asia (1.2 per cent in Vietnam, 1.0 per cent in the Philippines, and 0.6 per cent in China), 2.4 per cent in New Zealand, and 1.3 per cent in Lebanon.
  • Multiple births occurred in 3,397 pregnancies (1.3 per cent of all confinements). There were 3,305 twin pregnancies, 89 triplet pregnancies, 2 quadruplet pregnancies, and 1 quintuplet pregnancy. Aboriginal mothers had a lower multiple birth rate of 0.8 per cent, mainly attributable to their younger age distribution.
  • Labour was induced in 19.5 per cent of all confinements.
  • There were 45,503 deliveries by caesarean section. The caesarean rate of 18.0 per cent in 1991 continued the increasing trend nationally. South Australia (22.0 per cent) and Queensland (20.5 per cent) had the highest caesarean rates and the Northern Territory (15.6 per cent) the lowest. Factors associated with higher caesarean rates were older mothers, first births, multiple births, private accommodation in hospital, breech presentation, and low birthweight. One in four mothers who had private accommodation in hospital in South Australia and Queensland had their babies by caesarean section.
  • One in six Aboriginal mothers gave birth by caesarean section. The caesarean rates for Aboriginal mothers were higher than for all mothers in every age group except those aged 40 years and over.
  • There were 16,272 babies of low birthweight (less than 2500g) born in 1991. Low birthweight was more likely in the babies of the youngest and oldest mothers, those having their first babies, single mothers, and those in public accommodation in hospital.
  • Aboriginal babies had an average birthweight of 3,140g, which was 209g less than for all births. Low birthweight occurred in 13.0 per cent of Aboriginal babies, compared with 6.3 per cent of all births, and was relatively more common in the Northern Territory (15.2 per cent), Western Australia (14.9 per cent) and South Australia (13.8 per cent).