Older mothers

Older mothers are those who gave birth aged 40 or more. This section looks at key topics in relation to older mothers including, onset of labour and method of birth, smoking status and timing and number of antenatal care visits.

The figure shows different charts displaying key statistics on older mothers (aged 40 years or over) who gave birth in Australia in 2019. Three pie charts show proportions of older mothers by onset of labour, method of birth and smoking status. A line graph shows the number of older mothers who gave birth from 2009 to 2019. Two segmented bar charts show proportions of older mothers by duration of pregnancy at first antenatal visit and the number of antenatal visits.

The number of older mothers has fluctuated over time, although the trend shows an overall increase, from 11,687 (4.0%) in 2009 to 13,440 (4.5%) in 2019.

Most older mothers access antenatal care in the first trimester (77%) and almost all older mothers have more than 5 antenatal visits (94%). 

Over time, the most common onset of labour type for older mothers has become no labour (43% in 2019, up from 34% in 2009 when spontaneous was the most common onset of labour among older mothers), with a corresponding caesarean section rate of over 1 in 2 (55% in 2019) older mothers who gave birth. 

Older mothers are unlikely to smoke during pregnancy, with 6.6% of older mothers reporting that they smoke in 2019. This rate has fallen over time (11% in 2009). 

It is important to note that older mothers experience significant differences in relation to maternal characteristics, health behaviours and outcomes—and perinatal outcomes—when compared to the overall population of Australian mothers and babies. These differences can be explored when viewing ‘maternal age’ at the chapter or topic level throughout this report.