Australia's mothers and babies 2001
Australia’s Mothers and Babies 2001 is the eleventh report providing information on births in Australia from perinatal data collections for each state and territory. The report examines demographic and pregnancy factors of mothers and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies.
This edition sees the introduction of a new format which uses data from a wider range of sources than previously and includes a new chapter on summary health measures derived from the National Perinatal Data Collection. For the first time, Australia’s mothers and babies contains three special chapters; on babies in neonatal intensive care units, on confinements and births of twins, and on births following assisted reproductive technology in Australia in 2001.
The report will be particularly useful to consumers of perinatal health care services, perinatal health service planners and those providing services or conducting research in reproductive and perinatal health.
- In 2001, 254,326 babies born to 250,071 mothers were notified to perinatal data collections in the states and territories. This represents a birth every 2 minutes and approximately 697 births per day in Australia in 2001.
- The average age of all mothers in 2001 was 29.2 years, and 27.5 years for those having their first baby, continuing the upward trend in maternal age in recent years. There were 12,441 mothers aged less than 20 years (5.0% of all mothers), of whom 3,793 were aged 17 years or younger.
- An increasing number of women appeared to be deferring childbearing. The number of first-time mothers in the older age groups has increased since 1992. Of mothers having their first baby in 2001, 10.7% were aged 35 years or older.
- There were 8,681 Indigenous mothers, representing 3.6% of all mothers in Australia in 2001. Over one-third (39.8%) of births in the Northern Territory were to Indigenous mothers. The proportion of births to Indigenous mothers in Western Australia and Queensland was 6.2% and 5.5%, respectively. The average age of Indigenous mothers was 24.5 years and there was a high proportion of teenage mothers (23.0%).
- The proportion of mothers who were born in a country other than Australia was 22.1% in 2001.
- In 2001, 1 in 4 (25.4%) births were by caesarean section. State and territory caesarean section rates ranged from 22.7% to 27.8%. Over the last 10 years, instrumental deliveries have decreased while caesarean sections have increased. Caesarean section rates were higher among older mothers and those in private hospitals.
- Multiple pregnancies accounted for 1.7% of all confinements and included 4,062 twin pregnancies, 91 triplet pregnancies and 4 quadruplet pregnancies.
- Mothers continued to have relatively short postnatal stays in hospital in 2001. The proportion of mothers giving birth in hospitals who stayed less than 2 days was 10.8%, while those staying between 2 and 4 days was 56.4%. Mothers in public hospitals had shorter postnatal stays than those in private hospitals.
- In 2001, the average gestational age of all babies was 38.9 weeks. Of all births in Australia, 7.8% were preterm (less than 37 weeks gestation).
- Low birthweight (less than 2,500 g) occurred in 15,751 (6.2%) liveborn babies in 2001. The proportion of liveborn babies of Indigenous mothers that were low birthweight was 12.9% compared to 6.5% of babies of non-Indigenous mothers.
- The median length of stay in hospital for babies born in hospital was 4.0 days in 2001. Two-thirds of babies stayed in hospital for less than 5 days.
- The method of birth for more than half of all confinements for twins was caesarean section (56.6%). Twins were more likely than singleton babies to be born preterm and to be low birthweight. Mothers of twins were older, with 25.2% being aged 35 or over in 2001, compared with 17.3% of mothers of singletons.
- Babies born in 2001 following the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) had a lower average birthweight compared with all Australian babies, with 22.7% of pregnancies being preterm. Almost half of the ART babies were delivered by caesarean section (47.1%). Mothers of babies born following ART were, on average, 4.1 years older than all Australian mothers.
- In 2001, 5,241 babies were admitted to level III neonatal intensive care units in Australia. Of these babies, 50.0% had a gestational age of less than 32 weeks and 42.6% had a birthweight of less than 1,500 grams.
- In 2001, using state and territory perinatal data, the fetal death rate was 6.9 per 1,000 births; the neonatal death rate was 3.2 per 1,000 live births; and the perinatal death rate was 10.1 per 1,000 births. These rates should be interpreted with caution as data were incomplete.