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Lowest birth rate in more than a decade but most newborn babies are healthy

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The rate of women giving birth in Australia has gradually fallen, from 66 per 1,000 in 2007 to 56 per 1,000 in 2020, consistent with ABS findings.

The AIHW report, Australia’s mothers and babies captures data from the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and shows that the number of babies born declined by around 7,100 (2.3%) between 2019 and 2020.

‘More than 9 in 10 of the almost 296,000 babies born in Australia during 2020 were born at term and at a healthy birthweight,’ said AIHW spokesperson Deanna Eldridge.

The average age of all mothers has continued to increase over time with mothers now giving birth at 30.9 years, up from 30.0 years in 2010. There has been a decline in the proportion of teenage mothers from 3.8% in 2010 to 1.8% in 2020. There is also a higher proportion of mothers aged 40 and over (4.5% in 2020 compared with 4.1% in 2010).

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Overall, more than 1 in 3 (37%) mothers gave birth by caesarean section in 2020, up from 32% in 2010. Caesarean sections were more common among women aged 40 and over.

‘The proportion of mothers accessing antenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy has steadily increased over time from 63% in 2012 to 79% in 2020,’ Ms. Eldridge said.

However, Ms. Eldridge noted that a lower proportion of mothers who lived in Remote (74%) and Very remote (71%) areas accessed antenatal care in the first trimester.

Between 2010 and 2020, there was a 35% decrease in the number of mothers that reported smoking at some stage during their pregnancy (from 14% to 9.2%).

‘One of the most amazing and challenging times in a family is pregnancy and the welcoming of a new baby, but tragically some families experience the loss of their baby,’ Ms. Eldridge said.

Over the past 10 years, stillbirth and neonatal death rates have remained between 7 and 8 per 1,000 births and between 2 and 3 per 1,000 live births, respectively. The AIHW will be releasing a more detailed report on stillbirths and neonatal deaths in November 2022. This will include information such as causes, maternal characteristics, timing and investigations.

This is the 30th annual report on mothers and babies from the National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC). In conjunction with today’s report, Maternity models of care in Australia, 2022 has also been released.

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