Method of birth

Method of birth refers to how the baby was born, which may be vaginally or by caesarean section. When compared with non-instrumental vaginal births, instrumental vaginal births (vacuum or forceps) and caesarean section births can carry additional risks for mothers and babies, such as infection and physical trauma. Although each method carries risks, they are chosen by women and their healthcare providers to minimise complications and increase the likelihood of positive pregnancy outcomes (Victorian Department of Health 2017).

For multiple births, women are categorised by the method of birth of the first-born baby.

Over time, the proportion of women who had a vaginal non-instrumental birth has decreased, and the proportion of women who had a caesarean section birth has increased. Vaginal birth assisted by vacuum or forceps have remained relatively stable. In 2020:

  • 50% of women had a non-instrumental vaginal birth (compared with 56% in 2010)
  • 7.4% of women had a vaginal birth assisted by vacuum (compared with 8.1% in 2010)
  • 5.2% of women had a vaginal birth assisted by forceps (compared with 4.0% in 2010)
  • 37% of women having a caesarean section birth (compared with 32% in 2010)

The data visualisation below presents data on the method of birth of women who gave birth, by selected maternal characteristics, for 2020. Click the trend button to see how data has changed over an 11-year period (where available).

For more information on vaginal births and caesarean section births, expand the sections below.


ACSQHC (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care) (2018) The second Australian atlas of healthcare variation, ACSQHC, accessed 3 January 2018.

Chauhan SP, Martin JN Jr, Henrichs CE, Morrison JC and Magann EF (2003) ‘Maternal and perinatal complications with uterine rupture in 142,075 patients who attempted vaginal birth after cesarean delivery: a review of the literature’, American Journal of Obstetrics Gynecology, 189(2):408–417, doi:10.1067/s0002-9378(03)00675-6.

Jamshed S, Chien SC, Tanweer A, Asdary RN, Hardhantyo M, Greenfield D, Chien CH, Weng SF, Jian WS and Iqbal U (2022) ‘Correlation between previous caesarean section and adverse maternal outcomes accordingly with Robson classification: systematic review and meta-analysis’, Frontiers in Medicine, 10(8):740000, doi:10.3389/fmed.2021.740000.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2019). Health at a glance 2019: OECD indicators, OECD, accessed 13 April 2021.

RANZCOG (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) (2019) Birth after previous caesarean section, RANZCOG, accessed 11 May 2022.

Victorian Department of Health (2017) Caesarean section, Victorian Department of Health, Victorian Government, accessed 31 May 2022.

WHO (World Health Organization) (2017) Robson classification: implementation manual, WHO, accessed 10 May 2018.

WHO SRH (World Health Organization Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research) (2015) WHO statement on caesarean section rates, reference number WHO/RHR/15.02, SRH WHO, accessed 21 November 2018.