More births

Australia’s mothers and babies 2007 is the 17th annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia providing national information on women who gave birth and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies. In 2007, 289,496 women gave birth to 294,205 babies in Australia. This included 292,027 live births and 2,177 fetal deaths. The baby boom continued, with 12,036 more births (4.3%) than reported in 2006 and 14.4% more than in 2004.

Older mothers

The average age of women who gave birth in 2007 was 29.9 years, compared with 28.9 years in 1998. Women aged 35 years or older accounted for 22.3%, up from 15.7% in 1998. The first data from four jurisdictions on the use of assisted reproduction technology (ART) showed that 3.1% of women who gave birth received ART treatment. The average age of women who received ART treatment was 34.1 years compared to 29.8 years for other women.

Birth centre births

Of women who gave birth during 2005–2007, 2.0% gave birth in birth centres. Women giving birth in birth centres are a highly selected population. The 16,969 babies born in birth centres had low rates of adverse perinatal outcomes including: preterm birth (0.7%), low birthweight (0.8% of liveborn babies) and admission to neonatal intensive care unit or a special care nursery (3.7% of liveborn babies).

Labour and delivery

New data on pain relief showed that of women who laboured, 74.8% had analgesia administered. The most common type of analgesia for labour was nitrous oxide (49.7%), followed by epidural or caudal analgesia (28.2%). The most common method of administration of anaesthesia for instrumental deliveries was epidural or caudal anaesthesia (49.7%), and for caesarean sections, spinal anaesthesia (60.6%). This is the first year that the rate of caesarean section has not significantly increased with a 0.1% rise from 30.8% in 2006 to 30.9% in 2007. The primary caesarean section rate was 21.2% in 2007; 32.1% for first-time mothers and 10.3% for multiparous mothers. Around 83.3% of those who had previously had a caesarean section had a further caesarean section in 2007.

Baby outcomes

Of babies born in 2007, 6.2% of live births were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams). This rate of low birthweight was the lowest since 1998, when it was 6.1%. The perinatal death rate was 10.3 per 1,000 births. The fetal and neonatal death rates were 7.4 per 1,000 births and

2.9 per 1,000 live births respectively. Perinatal death rates varied by sociodemographic, maternal and pregnancy risk factors. Young maternal age, maternal Indigenous status and multiple gestation were associated with higher rates of perinatal deaths. The leading category of perinatal death was congenital abnormality (23.5%). For term singleton births the leading categories of perinatal death were unexplained antepartum death (25.3%), congenital abnormality (16.7%) and hypoxic peripartum death (14.0%).