Australia's mothers and babies 1997
Australia's Mothers and Babies 1997 provides 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 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.
Australia's Mothers and Babies 1997 was produced by the AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit based at the University of New South Wales.
- In 1997, 256,198 babies born to 252,370 mothers were notified to perinatal data collections in the States and Territories. More mothers had their babies in birth centres than in previous years and home births decreased compared to 1996.
- The average age of all mothers in 1997 was 28.7 years, and 26.8 years for those having their first baby, continuing the upward trend in recent years. There were 13,137 teenage mothers (5.2% of all mothers), of whom 4,101 were aged 17 years or younger.
- Although some women are deferring childbearing, in 1997 only 1 in 12 mothers had their first baby at age 35 years or older. Nearly one in 7 mothers with private health insurance were in this group, compared with only 1 in 18 mothers who did not have private health insurance.
- There were 8,066 Indigenous mothers (3.2% of all mothers), of whom 2,486 gave birth in Queensland, 1,842 in New South Wales, 1,539 in Western Australia, 1,197 in the Northern Territory, with smaller numbers in the other States and the Australian Capital Territory. The average age of Indigenous mothers was 24.3 years and there was a high proportion of teenage mothers (22.9%).
- The proportion of mothers who were born in a country other than Australia was 22.8% in 1997.
- Multiple pregnancies accounted for 1.4% of all confinements and included 3,598 twin pregnancies, 102 triplet pregnancies, and 9 higher order pregnancies.
- In 1997, more than 1 in 5 (20.3%) births was by caesarean section. South Australia (23.5%) had the highest caesarean rate in 1997 and New South Wales (18.2%) the lowest. Caesarean rates were higher among older mothers, those having their first baby, and those with private health insurance. Mothers aged 35-39 years who were privately insured and having their first baby had a caesarean rate of 40.7%.
- More mothers had relatively short postnatal stays in hospital in 1997 than in previous years. The proportion who stayed less than 2 days increased from 3.2% in 1991 to 9.8% in 1997, while the proportion of those staying between two and four days increased from 35% to 51.6% in the same period. Mothers without private health insurance had shorter postnatal stays than those with private health insurance.
- Low birthweight (less than 2,500 g) occurred in 16,800 (6.6%) babies in 1997, slightly higher than in other recent years. The mean birthweight of babies of Indigenous mothers was 3,146 g, 210 g less than the mean for all births; 13.1% of Indigenous babies had a low birthweight, almost twice the national proportion.
- Fetal, neonatal and perinatal death rates were 6.0, 3.2 and 9.2 per 1,000 births, respectively, in 1997. Rates remain low, having steadily declined for the past two decades. The perinatal death rate of twins was 4.4 times higher, and of other multiple births 8.5 times higher, than the death rate of singleton babies.
- The main causes of perinatal deaths based on the Whitfield classification were spontaneous preterm birth, unexplained intrauterine fetal death, and fetal abnormality. These three groups of causes accounted for at least half of all perinatal deaths in 1997 in the States where data were available (Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia).