Older mothers and their babies

This section focuses on older mothers (mothers who gave birth when they were aged 40 and over) and their babies. With appropriate medical care, most older mothers have healthy pregnancies and babies. However, older mothers remain at higher risk of developing some conditions such as gestational diabetes mellitus or preeclampsia (Li et al. 2020; Marozio et al. 2017). Babies born to older mothers can have a higher risk of preterm birth, fetal distress or poor fetal growth (Cavazos-Rehg et al. 2015; Fuchs et al. 2018). In many cases, medical supervision and regular antenatal visits can safely manage or prevent these conditions (Dietl et al. 2015).

Mothers who gave birth aged 40 and over

In 2020, women who gave birth aged 40 and over accounted for 4.5% (13,163) of all mothers. This proportion has remained between 4% and 5% since 2010 (4.1% and 12,082 in 2010).

The data visualisation below presents data for women who gave birth aged 40 and over, by selected maternal characteristics over an 11-year period (where available).

The figure shows a line graph of trends in the proportion of women who gave birth aged 40 and over by a range of topics including antenatal care, method of birth, remoteness area and socioeconomic status from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, 4.5% of women who gave birth were aged 40 and over.

Most older mothers access antenatal care in the first trimester (78%) and almost all older mothers have more than 5 antenatal visits (94%). 

Over time, the most common onset of labour type for older mothers has become no labour (44% in 2020, up from 35% in 2010 when spontaneous was the most common onset of labour among older mothers), with a corresponding caesarean section rate of over 1 in 2 (56% in 2020) older mothers who gave birth. 

Older mothers are unlikely to smoke during pregnancy, with 6.6% of older mothers reporting that they smoke in 2020. This rate has fallen over time (10% in 2010). 

It is important to note that older mothers experience significant differences in relation to maternal characteristics, health behaviours and outcomes—and perinatal outcomes—when compared to the overall population of Australian mothers and babies. These differences can be explored when viewing Maternal age at the chapter or topic level throughout this report.

Babies born to mothers aged 40 and over

In 2020, babies born to mothers aged 40 and over accounted for 4.6% (13,481) of all births.

The data visualisation below presents data for babies born to women who gave birth aged 40 and over, by selected baby characteristics over an 11-year period (where available).

The figure shows a line graph of trends in the proportion of babies who were born to mothers aged 40 and over by a range of topics including admission to SCN/NICU, gestational age and presentation from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, 4.6% or 13,481 babies were born to mothers aged 40 and over.

Visualisation not available for printing

In 2020, most babies born to mothers aged 40 and over were born at term and had a normal birthweight (89% and 90%, respectively).

Over 1 in 5 babies born to mothers aged 40 and over required active resuscitation or admission to SCN/NICU (both 22%), and 43% had a hospital stay of 4 days or more.

References

Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss MJ, Spitznagel EL, Bommarito K, Madden T, Olsen MA, Subramaniam H, Peipert JF and Bierut LJ (2015) ‘Maternal age and risk of labor and delivery complications’, Maternal and Child Health Journal, 19(6):1202–1211, doi:10.1007/s10995-014-1624-7.

Dietl A, Cupisti S, Beckmann MW, Schwab M and Zollner U (2015) ‘Pregnancy and obstetrical outcomes in women over 40 years of age’, Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde, 75(8):827–832, doi:10.1055/s-0035-1546109.

Fuchs F, Monet B, Ducruet T, Chaillet N and Audibert F (2018) ‘Effect of maternal age on the risk of preterm birth: a large cohort study’, PLOS One, 13(1):e0191002, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191002.

Li Y, Ren X, He L, Li J, Zhang S and Chen W (2020) ‘Maternal age and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of over 120 million participants’, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 162:108044, doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2020.108044.

Marozio L, Picardo E, Filippini C, Mainolfi E, Berchialla P, Cavallo F, Tancredi A and Benedetto C (2019) ‘Maternal age over 40 years and pregnancy outcome: a hospital-based survey’. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 32(10):1602–1608, doi:10.1080/14767058.2017.1410793.