Summary: This is the twenty-first annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia. In 2011, a total of 297,126 women gave birth to 301,810 babies. There was a 0.8% increase in the total number of births compared with 2010.
The average maternal age in 2011 was 30.0 years compared with 29.4 years in 2002. Approximately 43.0% of women were having their first baby and the average age for first- time mothers was 28.3. Of all first-time mothers in 2011, 14.2% were aged 35 or older, compared with 11.2% in 2002. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) was used by 3.8% of women who gave birth in the five jurisdictions for which data on ART were available.
Smoking while pregnant was reported by 13.2% of all mothers and by 35.8% of teenage mothers. About one-fifth (20.4%) of women who reported smoking during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy did not report smoking during the second 20 weeks. Two-thirds (65.7%) of women attended at least one antenatal visit before 14 weeks gestation, although 13.8% of women did not receive antenatal care until after 20 weeks.
About 3.9% of women who gave birth during 2011 identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Indigenous mothers were younger than non-Indigenous mothers; their average age in 2011 was 25.3 years, compared with 30.2 years for non-Indigenous mothers. Smoking during pregnancy was reported by half (50.0%) of Indigenous mothers. Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers who reported smoking during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, 10.6% did not report smoking during the second 20 weeks, which was half that of non- Indigenous mothers (22.1%).
Labour and delivery
Onset of labour was spontaneous for 54.8% of women giving birth. Most women (67.7%) had a vaginal birth and, of these, 82.1% did not involve the use of instruments. Overall, 32.3% of women gave birth by caesarean section in 2011, a 0.7% rise from 2010. The caesarean section rate among first-time mothers was 33.2% in 2011. Among women who had already given birth at least once, 28.8% had had a previous birth by caesarean section.
In 2011, 8.3% of babies were born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) and 0.7% post-term (42 weeks gestation or more). Overall, 6.3% of liveborn babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and this nearly doubled (11.2%) among mothers who smoked during pregnancy. One-quarter (24.3%) of babies required some form of
resuscitation at birth, although 64.9% of these required only suction or oxygen therapy. The perinatal death rate was 9.9 per 1,000 births in 2011, with 7.4 fetal deaths per 1,000 births and 2.6 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births.