Method of birth

Method of birth refers to how the baby was born, which may be vaginally or by caesarean section. When compared with non-instrumental vaginal births, instrumental vaginal births (vacuum or forceps) and caesarean section births can carry additional risks for mothers and babies, such as infection and physical trauma. Although each method carries risks, they are chosen by women and their healthcare providers to minimise complications and increase the likelihood of positive pregnancy outcomes (Victorian Department of Health and Human Services 2017).

For multiple births, women are categorised by the method of birth of the first-born baby.

Over time, the proportion of women who had a vaginal non-instrumental birth has decreased, and the proportion of women who had a caesarean section birth has increased. Vaginal birth assisted by vacuum or forceps have remained relatively stable. In 2021:

  • 50% of women had a non-instrumental vaginal birth (compared with 56% in 2011)
  • 7.2% of women had a vaginal birth assisted by vacuum (compared with 7.9% in 2011)
  • 4.9% of women had a vaginal birth assisted by forceps (compared with 4.2% in 2011)
  • 38% of women had a caesarean section birth (compared with 32% in 2011).

Figure 1 presents data on the method of birth of women who gave birth, by selected maternal characteristics, for 2021. Select the trend button to see how data has changed over an 11-year period (where available).

Figure 1: Proportion of women who gave birth, by method of birth and selected topic

Bar chart shows method of birth by selected topics and a line graph shows topic trends between 2011 and 2021. 

For more information on vaginal births and caesarean section births, expand the sections below.


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Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (2017) Caesarean section, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Victorian Government, accessed 31 May 2022.

WHO (World Health Organization) (2017) Robson classification: implementation manual, WHO, accessed 10 May 2018.

WHO SRH (World Health Organization Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research) (2015) WHO statement on caesarean section rates, reference number WHO/RHR/15.02, WHO SRH, accessed 21 November 2018.