A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found the health of Australia’s pregnant women and their newborn babies is improving.
The report Child and maternal health 2013–2015 measured four health indicators, including the rate of infant and young child deaths, the rate of underweight newborn babies, the percentage of mothers smoking during pregnancy, and the percentage of mothers attending care services during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The report shows infant death rates and the number of women smoking during pregnancy are falling, but at different rates across Australia’s 31 Primary Health Network areas.
The report found the Northern Sydney area had the lowest rate of low birthweight babies at four percent. Just one percent of mothers in North Sydney smoked during pregnancy, while the number of deaths among infants and young children were about two per 1000 live births.
The Western NSW area had the highest rate of mothers smoking during pregnancy, at 23 percent, while the Northern Territory had the highest rate of low birthweight babies at eight percent, and infants and young child deaths were at eight per 1000 live births.
Across all indicators, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies and those outside of metropolitan areas were worse off.
AIHW spokesperson Anna O’Mahony said the rate of infant deaths was almost 1.5 times higher in regional areas.
“While about 1 in 10 Australian mothers smoked during pregnancy overall, the rate was much higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, of whom almost half (46.5 percent) smoked at some point during their pregnancy,” Ms O’Mahony said.
Ms O’Mahony said more work was needed.
“This includes improving data on mothers’ experiences with domestic violence, mental health issues, and alcohol consumption during pregnancy,” she said.