Australia’s mothers and babies 2009 is the nineteenth annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia.

More births

In 2009 in Australia, a total 294,540 women gave birth to 299,220 babies. There were 296,791 live births and 2,341 fetal deaths. There was a 0.8% increase in the total number of births compared with 2008, but there was a fall in the rate of females aged 15-44 years in the whole population who gave birth (from 64.4 per 1,000 in 2008 to 63.6 per 1,000 in 2009).


The average maternal age in 2009 was 30.0 years compared with 29.0 years in 2000. Approximately 41.6% of women were having their first baby and the average age for first time mothers was 27.9 in 2009 which was 0.3 years younger than for 2008. Of all first-time mothers, 13.7% were aged 35 years or older in 2009, compared with 10.3% in 2000. In the four jurisdictions for which data on assisted reproductive technology (ART) were available, ART was used by 3.6% of women who gave birth.

Antenatal factors

Smoking while pregnant was reported by 14.5% of all mothers and by 37.0% of teenage mothers. In the 4 jurisdictions where data on the number of antenatal visits were available, 97.3% of women who gave birth at 32 weeks or more gestation attended at least one antenatal visit, with 91.9% attending 5 or more.

Indigenous mothers

About 3.8% of women who gave birth during 2009 identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Indigenous mothers are younger than non-Indigenous mothers; their average age was 25.3 years, compared with 30.2 years for non-Indigenous mothers. Smoking during pregnancy was reported by half (49.6%) of Indigenous mothers. Of Indigenous mothers who gave birth at 32 weeks or more gestation, 76.8% attended 5 or more antenatal visits.

Labour and delivery

In 2009, of women who laboured, 75.2% had analgesia administered. Onset of labour was spontaneous for 56.1% of women giving birth. Most women (68.5%) had a vaginal birth, and of these, 82.9% did not involve the use of instruments. Overall, 31.5% of women gave birth by caesarean section in 2009, which was a 0.4% rise from 2008.

Baby outcomes

In 2009, 8.2% of babies were born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) and 0.9% post-term (42 weeks gestation or more). Overall, 6.2% of liveborn babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and this nearly doubled (10.8%) among mothers who smoking during pregnancy. Less than 1.5% of liveborn babies had a low Apgar score (measure of the baby’s condition at birth). The perinatal death rate was 9.8 per 1,000 births in 2009, which comprised fetal and neonatal death rates of 7.8 per 1,000 births and 3.0 per 1,000 live births respectively.