A staggering 1 in 10 babies in Australia are born premature (before 37 weeks gestation) and approximately 15% of all babies require some form of extra care at birth.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s Mothers and Babies report provides up-to-date information on women who have given birth in Australia and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies. According to the latest annual report, in a 12-month period 307,844 women gave birth to 312,548 babies in Australia and of the babies born:

  • Pre-term birth (less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) occurred for 8.6% of all mothers.
  • The mean gestational age for all preterm births was 33.3 weeks.
  • Pre-term babies were more likely to be admitted to an SCN or NICU (72%) than babies delivered at term (10%) or post-term (13%).
  • In 2014, 6.4% (19,833) of liveborn babies were of low birthweight. Of these babies:
    • 16% or 3,150 were of very low birthweight (less than 1,500 grams) and
    • 7% or 1,396 were extremely low birthweight (less than 1,000 grams).
  • 15% (42,422) of live born babies were admitted to a SCN or NICU:
  • Babies born in multiple births were vastly more likely to be born pre-term—around 63% of twins and all other multiples (triplets and higher) were born pre-term in 2014. These rates compared with 7% of singleton babies. 
  • One in five (20.0%) of babies required some form of resuscitation at birth. Almost half (43%) of those requiring resuscitation received suction or oxygen therapy, and almost 2 in 5 (38%) received ventilatory assistance by intermittent positive pressure ventilation (IPPV) through a bag and mask or via endotracheal intubation. Around 2% of babies who received resuscitation required external cardiac massage and ventilation.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s mothers and babies 2014—in brief. Perinatal statistics series no. 32. Cat no. PER 87. Canberra: AIHW.

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