Outcomes during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia (2020 and 2021 combined) were compared with what would have been expected based on trends in the years prior to the pandemic (2015 to 2019).

In 2020 and 2021 combined, there were:

  • 2,390 fewer babies being born at a low birthweight
  • 1,050 more women giving birth at home
  • 4,260 fewer babies requiring specialised care (that is, fewer babies admitted to a special care nursery or neonatal intensive care unit)
  • 2,330 fewer babies born pre-term
  • 15,380 more women giving birth without labour being induced.

These years, however, were also associated with:

  • less than expected use of pregnancy care services by first-time mothers, with 4,670 fewer first-time mothers attending the recommended 10 or more antenatal visits
  • 880 more women than expected experiencing high blood pressure during pregnancy (gestational hypertension).

In terms of the characteristics and risk factors of birthing mothers (such as age and weight), there didn’t appear to be a change in these years.

There was also no clear change in the stillbirth rate, which fluctuated between 6.7 and 7.7 per 1,000 births during the period of 2015 to 2021.

A trend towards shorter postnatal stays continued during 2020 and 2021; but at a greater than expected rate, with 21,840 more mothers and 19,890 more babies staying in hospital for one day or less following a hospital birth.

It is important to note that this report describes the changes observed between pre-pandemic and pandemic years but is not able to determine the cause of these changes, for example, COVID-19 infection, other pandemic-related factors such as individual and societal responses to the pandemic, public health measures, or other factors (events or initiatives) unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. See Limitations for more information.