Indigenous mothers

This section uses crude rates, as opposed to age-standardised rates presented in other sections.

The topics explored for Indigenous mothers are state and territory of birth, maternal age, onset of labour and method of birth, timing and number of antenatal visits, smoking status, remoteness of usual residence and socio-economic status. The topics for babies of Indigenous mothers are gestational age, birthweight, birthweight adjusted for gestational age, Apgar score at 5 minutes, hospital length of stay and admission to special care nurseries (SCN) or neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander mothers account for about 4–5% of women who give birth, while Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander babies account for about 6% of all births. 

There have been improvements in outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies in recent years, with:

  • a notable increase in the proportion of Indigenous mothers attending an antenatal visit in the first trimester
  • a small increase in the proportion of Indigenous mothers attending 5 or more antenatal visits 
  • a decrease in the proportion of Indigenous mothers who reported smoking during pregnancy.

The proportion of Indigenous teenage (aged under 20) mothers who gave birth has been gradually decreasing since 2010. The proportion of mothers who report smoking at any time during pregnancy has fallen since 2010, when data first became available. 

Around 3 in 5 Indigenous mothers had a non-instrumental vaginal birth, and fewer than 1 in 3 gave birth by caesarean section. The majority of Indigenous mothers had 5 or more antenatal visits (more than 4 in 5); this proportion has remained relatively unchanged since 2011. 

About 1 in 4 babies of Indigenous mothers were admitted SCN or NICU. Almost all babies had an Apgar score of 7–10 at 5 minutes after birth, indicating that they have adapted well post-birth. The majority of babies of Indigenous mothers were born at term (6 in 7) and with a normal birthweight (about 4 in 5). This proportion was similar for birthweight adjusted for gestational age. Babies of Indigenous mothers most commonly had a hospital stay of 2–3 days (almost 1 in 2), with around 1 in 10 having a stay of 6 days or more.

It is important to note that despite improvements, gaps remain between outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers and babies.