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The caesarean birth rate in Australia continued to increase during the late 1980s, reaching a peak of 18.0% of all confinements (excluding New South Wales) in 1989. The rate of 17.5% in 1990 was slightly lower. In that year, there were almost 45,000 caesarean births nationally, representing about 1 in 6 of all births. Other interventions during childbirth included the use of forceps in 10-15% of confinements and vacuum extraction in about 2% of confinements. Vaginal breech delivery occurred in 1.2-1.4% of confinements.
Caesarean rates were highest in South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory and lowest in Tasmania. Slightly more than half of all caesarean sections were performed electively before the onset of labour.
Older mothers had higher caesarean rates - those aged 40 years or more had a caesarean rate more than double that of teenage mothers. The caesarean rate was about 15-20% higher in first confinements than in subsequent confinements. With advancing maternal age, the rate was relatively higher for first confinements.
Mothers classified as private patients had higher caesarean rates than those classified as public patients. The greatest difference in rates occurred in Queensland, where private patients had rates 50% higher than public patients.
Caesarean rates in twin confinements were double those in singleton births. The majority of other multiple births were delivered by caesarean section.
Babies weighing 1000-1499g were more likely to be born by caesarean section than babies in other birthweight groups; the caesarean rate for this group was 50.1%. Caesarean rates were also relatively high for babies in the heaviest birthweight group (22.4% for babies of 4500g or more).
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