Women waiting longer to start a family



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The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare - Australia’s Mothers and Babies 2006 - says that women are waiting longer to start a family.

According to the report the average age of mothers giving birth in Australia is just under 30 years of age, and the average age of first-time mothers is around 28 years.

The report is the 16th annual report on pregnancy and childbirth in Australia and it shows that the average age of mothers giving birth was 29.8 years in 2006, compared with 28.7 years in 1997 - around 21% of mothers were aged 35 or over in 2006, up from 15% in 1997.

Paula Laws of the AIHW’s National Perinatal Statistics Unit says more women are deferring starting a family, with 1 in 7 first births being to women aged 35 or older, compared with 1 in 12 in 1997.

The report shows that while the age of women giving birth has risen, so has the number of births in Australia, with 277,436 women giving birth to 282,169 babies in 2006 - 9,750 more births in 2006 than in 2005.

Over 10,000 births in 2006 were to mothers of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, making up 3.7% of all mothers and the number of caesarean section births also continued to rise, with 31% of mothers giving birth by caesarean section in 2006 compared with 20% in 1997 - 41% of women in private hospitals were delivered by caesarean section, compared with 27% of public patients.

It was also found that around 84% of mothers giving birth in 2006 who had previously had a caesarean section had a further caesarean section - while the average length of stay in hospital for childbirth was 3 days, for women who had a caesarean section it was 5 days.

Ms Laws says the statistics on pre-term babies and low birth weight babies, have not changed considerably over the 10-year period and many women continue to smoke while pregnant - more than half of Aboriginal mothers continue to smoke during pregnancy.

Of all babies born in 2006, 8% were preterm (less than 37 weeks gestation), compared with 7% in 1997, 6% of live-born babies were of low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) and 15% of liveborn babies were admitted to a special care nursery or neonatal intensive care unit.

The death rate of babies before or up to 28 days after birth was 10.3 per 1,000 births and the most common cause was congenital abnormality.

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