Antenatal care

Antenatal care is a planned visit between a pregnant woman and a midwife or doctor to assess and improve the wellbeing of the mother and baby throughout pregnancy. Antenatal care is associated with positive maternal and child health outcomes. It does not include visits where the sole purpose is to confirm the pregnancy.

Antenatal care is associated with positive maternal and child health outcomes—the likelihood of receiving effective health interventions is increased through attending antenatal care.

Duration of pregnancy at first antenatal visit

The proportion of women receiving antenatal care in the first trimester (before 14 weeks gestational age) is the most widely reported indicator. Regular antenatal care in the first trimester is associated with better maternal health in pregnancy, fewer interventions in late pregnancy and positive child health outcomes.

The Australian Pregnancy Care Guidelines (DoH 2020) recommend that a woman has her first antenatal visit within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In 2019, 55% of women attended antenatal care within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The figure shows a bar chart for duration of pregnancy at first antenatal visit by a range of topics for 2019 and a line graph for topic trends between 2012 and 2019. In 2019, 226,688 women, or 77%, had their first antenatal visit in the first trimester.

The majority of women attend antenatal care in the first trimester, nationally (77%) and across all states and territories. Some mothers were less likely to have an antenatal visit in the first trimester, including those:

  • who were aged under 20 (65%)
  • who smoked during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (69%) and after 20 weeks (67%)
  • who were born overseas (74%)
  • who had a parity of 4 or more (63%).

For related information see National Core Maternity Indicator Antenatal care in the first trimester

Number of antenatal visits

The Australian Pregnancy Care Guidelines (DoH 2020) recommend that first-time mothers with an uncomplicated pregnancy have 10 antenatal care visits during pregnancy (7 visits for subsequent uncomplicated pregnancies). In 2019, 85% of women attended 7 or more antenatal care visits and 57% attended 10 or more antenatal care visits.

The figure shows a bar chart for number of antenatal by a range of topics for 2019 and a line graph for trends between 2012 and 2019. In 2019, 274,695 women, or 94%, had 5 or more antenatal care visits.

More than 9 in 10 (94%) mothers had at least 5 or more antenatal visits during their pregnancy. This proportion was slightly less among teenage mothers (aged under 20) (91%) and mothers who smoked in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (89%) and after 20 weeks (88%).

The proportion of mothers who had 5 or more antenatal visits decreased as the number of previous pregnancies increased (from 96% among mothers who had had no previous pregnancies to 87% among mothers who had had four or more previous pregnancies).

Antenatal care and Primary Health Network area

The figure shows a map of Australia with the distribution mothers who had at least one antenatal care visit in the first trimester by Primary Health Network area for 2019. The map can also alternate between displays of the distribution of mothers who attended five antenatal visits or more and by the years 2013 to 2019.

The proportion of mothers attending an antenatal care visit in the first trimester and the proportion of mothers attending at least 5 or more antenatal visits varied across Primary Health Network (PHN) areas.

The proportion of mothers who attended an antenatal care visit in the first trimester ranged from 50% (in the Australian Capital Territory) to 90.5% (in Western Victoria) across PHN areas.

A high proportion of mothers attended 5 or more antenatal visits across all PHN areas—ranging from 86% in the Australian Capital Territory to 98% in Brisbane North.

For more information on antenatal care by Primary Health Network area see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data tables 5.1 and 5.2.

References

DoH (Department of Health) 2020. Clinical Practice Guidelines: Pregnancy Care. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 13 April, 2021.