The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenging time in recent Australian and world history. The direct effects of the virus itself – and indirect effects related to individual and societal responses and public health measures – resulted in changes to the experience of pregnancy and childbirth for many women and their families.

This report compares COVID-19 pandemic years 2020 and 2021 with pre-pandemic years to explore changes in maternal and perinatal characteristics and selected outcomes during this time. The topics explored in this report are supported by Australian research (where available) and international research, with a focus on the impacts of the COVID-19 infection, stay at home orders and other pandemic-related public health measures.

The report uses modelling to determine whether the changes observed in 2020 and 2021 were similar or different to those predicted by recent trends in the years prior. See Methods for more information.

Box 1: Data sources, definitions and terminology

This report is predominantly based on the National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC), a national population-based cross-sectional collection of data on pregnancy and childbirth.

The section on perinatal deaths is based on the National Perinatal Mortality Data Collection (NPMDC), a population-based cross-sectional collection of data regarding the deaths of babies in hospitals and in the community.

The section on Telehealth services is based on data from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

This report presents data by multiple geographies including:

Geographic data are reported from 2017 onwards due to changes in geographical borders prior to 2017. Due to small numbers, detailed geographic data were not available for certain topics (see Methods for more information).

This report uses the terms ‘woman’ and ‘women’ to mean ‘female' when referring to data collected in the National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC) and the National Maternal Mortality Data Collection (NMMDC) as these data sources are based on sex. Information on gender is not recorded in these data collections. ‘Woman’ and ‘women’ typically refers to groups of people aged 18 years and over; however, in this report, people who were pregnant or gave birth aged less than 18 are included. The terms ‘mother’ and ‘mothers’ refers to females who were pregnant and within the scope of these data collections. It is acknowledged that this report includes people who do not identify as women or mothers, and that individual parents and families may use different words to those used in this report. This may include women, transgender men, intersex people, non-binary and gender diverse people.