Method of birth
Method of birth refers to how the baby was born, which may be vaginally – non-instrumental or with the assistance of forceps or vacuum (instrumental vaginal birth) – or by caesarean section.
Each method of birth is chosen by women and their healthcare providers to minimise complications and increase the likelihood of positive pregnancy outcomes (AIHW 2022). Non-instrumental vaginal births are associated with lower risk of maternal complications, such as infection and haemorrhage, when compared with instrumental vaginal and caesarean section birth (ACSQHC 2018; Victorian Department of Health 2017; RANZCOG 2020).
In 2020, 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females who gave birth had a non-instrumental vaginal birth, 2.6% had an instrumental birth assisted by forceps, 4.8% had an instrumental birth assisted by vacuum and 32% had a caesarean section birth (compared with 50%, 5.4%, 7.6% and 38% of non-Indigenous females).
Over time, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers who had a non-instrumental vaginal birth has decreased (from 71% in 2005 and 72% in 2006 to 60% in 2020), whilst there has been a corresponding increase in the proportion who had an instrumental vaginal birth assisted by forceps (from 1.4% in 2005 to 2.6% on 2020) or vacuum (3.9% to 4.8%) and caesarean section birth (from 24% in in 2005 to 32% in 2020).
Having had a previous caesarean section can be associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes for women and their babies during subsequent pregnancies, most often due to uterine scarring (Chauhan et al. 2003; Jamshed et al. 2022).
Many women who choose to give birth vaginally after having had a previous caesarean section are successful (RANZCOG 2022). In 2020, 18% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females who had previously given birth by caesarean section had a vaginal birth (compared with 14% of non-Indigenous females).
The data visualisation below shows the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous females who gave birth by method of birth, from 2005.
Figure 1: Proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous females who gave birth by method of birth from 2005 to 2020