Antenatal care

Antenatal care is a planned visit between a pregnant woman and a midwife or doctor to assess and improve the wellbeing of the mother and baby throughout pregnancy. Antenatal care is associated with positive maternal and child health outcomes—the likelihood of receiving effective health interventions is increased through attending antenatal care. It does not include visits where the sole purpose is to confirm the pregnancy.

Duration of pregnancy at first antenatal visit

The proportion of women receiving antenatal care in the first trimester (before 14 weeks’ gestational age) is the most widely reported indicator. Regular antenatal care in the first trimester is associated with better maternal health in pregnancy, fewer interventions in late pregnancy and positive child health outcomes.

The Australian Pregnancy Care Guidelines (DoH 2020) recommend that a woman has her first antenatal visit within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In 2020, 59% of women attended antenatal care within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The data visualisation below presents data on the duration of pregnancy at the first antenatal care visit of women who gave birth, by selected maternal characteristics for 2020. Click the trend button to see how data has changed over a 9-year period.

The figure shows a bar chart for duration of pregnancy at first antenatal visit by a range of topics for 2020 and a line graph for topic trends between 2012 and 2020. In 2020, 228,923 women, or 79%, had their first antenatal visit in the first trimester.

Most women attend antenatal care in the first trimester, nationally (79%) and across all states and territories. Some mothers were less likely to have an antenatal visit in the first trimester, including those who:

  • had a parity of 4 or more (66%)
  • were aged under 20 (69%)
  • smoked during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (72%) and after 20 weeks (70%)
  • lived in Remote (74%) and Very remote areas (71%)

For related information see National Core Maternity Indicator Antenatal care in the first trimester

For more information on duration of pregnancy at first antenatal visit see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data table 2.13.

Number of antenatal visits

The Australian Pregnancy Care Guidelines (DoH 2020) recommend that first-time mothers with an uncomplicated pregnancy have 10 antenatal care visits during pregnancy (7 visits for subsequent uncomplicated pregnancies). In 2020, 83% of women who have previously given birth attended 7 or more antenatal care visits and 58% of first-time mothers attended 10 or more antenatal care visits.

The data visualisation below presents data on the number of antenatal care visits of women who gave birth, by selected maternal characteristics for 2020. Click the trend button to see how data has changed over a 9-year period.

The figure shows a bar chart for number of antenatal visits by a range of topics for 2020 and a line graph for trends between 2012 and 2020. In 2020, 269,640 women, or 95%, had 5 or more antenatal care visits.

More than 9 in 10 (95%) mothers had at least 5 or more antenatal visits during their pregnancy. This proportion was slightly less among women who smoked in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (89%) and after 20 weeks (87%), teenage mothers (aged under 20) (90%) and women who lived in Remote areas (92%) and the most disadvantaged areas (93%).

The proportion of mothers who had 5 or more antenatal visits decreased as the number of previous pregnancies increased (from 96% among first-time mothers to 87% among mothers who had had four or more previous pregnancies).

For more information on number of antenatal visits see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data table 2.12.

Antenatal care and Primary Health Network area

The proportion of mothers attending an antenatal care visit in the first trimester and the proportion of mothers attending at least 5 or more antenatal visits varied across Primary Health Network (PHN) areas.

The data visualisation below presents the number and proportion of women who gave birth who had at least one antenatal visit in the first trimester or who had 5 or more antenatal care visits, by PHN area, in 2020.

The figure shows a map of Australia with the distribution mothers who had at least one antenatal care visit in the first trimester by Primary Health Network area for 2020. The map can also alternate between displays of the distribution of mothers who attended five antenatal visits or more and by the years 2013 to 2020.

In 2020, the proportion of mothers who attended an antenatal care visit in the first trimester ranged from 47% (in the Australian Capital Territory) to 93% (in Western Victoria) across PHN areas. It is important to note that in the ACT, first antenatal visit is often the first hospital clinic visit and in many cases, earlier antenatal care provided by the woman’s general practitioner is not reported.

A high proportion of mothers attended 5 or more antenatal visits across all PHN areas—ranging from 89% in Murray to 98% in Brisbane North.

For more information on antenatal care by Primary Health Network area see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data tables 5.1 and 5.2.

References

DoH (Department of Health) (2020) Clinical practice guidelines: pregnancy care, DoH, Australian Government, accessed 13 April 2021.