More births

Australia’s mothers and babies 2008 is the eighteenth annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia providing national information on women who gave birth and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies. In 2008, 292,156 women gave birth to 296,925 babies in Australia. This included 294,737 live births and 2,188 fetal deaths. The increase in births continued, with 2,720 more births (0.9%) than reported in 2007. However, the ‘baby boom’ peak appears to have passed; the rate of women aged 15–44 years giving birth in the population decreased slightly between 2007 and 2008. Data on the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) showed that 3.2% of women who gave birth received ART treatment.

Antenatal factors

For jurisdictions where data on number of antenatal visits were available, 98.3% of women who gave birth had at least one antenatal visit, with 92.0% having five or more visits. Women who had no antenatal care accounted for only 0.3%. The proportion of women who smoked while pregnant was 16.2%. The average age of mothers who smoked was 27.0 years compared with 30.2 years for non-smokers.

Indigenous mothers

Of women who gave birth during 2008, 3.8% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The average age of Indigenous mothers was 25.1 years, compared with 30.1 years for non-Indigenous mothers. Over half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers reported smoking during pregnancy (50.9%), compared with 14.4% of non-Indigenous women who gave birth.

Labour and delivery

Of women who laboured, 74.6% had analgesia administered. The most common type of analgesia for labour was nitrous oxide (50.3%). The most common method of administration of anaesthesia for instrumental deliveries was epidural or caudal anaesthesia (50.7%), and for caesarean sections, spinal anaesthesia (61.3%). This is the second year that the rate of caesarean section has not significantly increased with a 0.2% rise from 30.9% in 2007 to 31.1% in 2008. The caesarean section rate for first-time mothers was 32.0% in 2008. Around 83.2% of those who had previously had a caesarean section had a further caesarean section in 2008.

Baby outcomes

Of babies born in 2008, 6.1% of live births were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams). This rate of low birthweight was the lowest in the decade 1999–2008. The perinatal death rate was 10.2 per 1,000 births in 2008, which comprised fetal and neonatal death rates of 7.4 per 1,000 births and 2.8 per 1,000 live births respectively. The leading category of perinatal death was congenital abnormality (24.9%). For term singleton births the leading categories of perinatal death were unexplained antepartum death (26.8%), congenital abnormality (16.4%) and hypoxic peripartum death (13.2%).