Department of Family and Community Services

Fertility and births

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Since the baby boom in the 1950s, women across Australia have been having fewer and later births. NSW women registered higher fertility than the national average during the mid-1980s. The birth rate then gradually slowed to a low point of 1.8 births per 1,000 women in 2001, but subsequently increased slightly to 1.9 births per 1,000 women by 2011. This is just below the replacement level of 2.1 births per 1,000 women.1

Aboriginal women, both in NSW and Australia-wide, have much higher fertility rates at 2.9 births for NSW Aboriginal women and 2.7 births for Aboriginal women across Australia in 2011. Up until 2011the fertility rates of NSW Aboriginal women were lower than that of Aboriginal women Australia-wide.

The median age of NSW mothers for first births increased from 28.4 years in 1994 to 29.2 years in 2011. From 1996 to 2010 the fertility rate for women aged 35 years and over increased from 19 to 30 percent. In 2010, 24 percent of births were to women aged 35 years and over compared to 15 percent in 1996.2 Conversely, 3.4 percent of births were to women aged between 12 and 19 years in 2010 compared to 5.0 percent in 1996.

The fertility rate for teenagers has decreased from 21 births per 1,000 women in 1996 to 14 per 1,000 women in 2010 (Figure 1.5).

Regional variation in birth rates

Variation in birth rates across NSW’s regions is very pronounced when we consider both older and younger mothers. Table 1.2 shows the regions with the lowest and highest percentages of births to older and younger women in 2010. Note however that total numbers of teenage births are low.

In North Sydney, nearly two-fifths of all births were to women aged 35 and older in 2010, and 0.5 percent (58 in total) to teenagers.

In the Far West, some 14 percent of births were to older women, and a similar percentage was to teenagers (34 births in total).

Note that ABS Births Australia, 2011 data confirms this pattern. It indicates that while in major cities, the teenage birth rate remained roughly stable between 2006 and 2011 at 11 births per 1,000 women, the rate rose in Remote and Very Remote NSW over the same period. For 15 to 19 year-olds living in Remote areas, the change was from 40 births per 1,000 women in 2006 to 44 births per 1,000 women in 2011. In Very Remote NSW the change was 45 births per 1,000 women to 53 births per 1,000 women.

Figure 1.5 Fertility rate, teenagers and women aged 35 years and over, NSW, 2010

Fig 1.5

Population: Teenage women and women aged 35 and over.

Source: NSW Perinatal Data Collection (HOIST), Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health.

Table 1.2 Maternal age by Local Health District, NSW 2010

 

Share of births to women under 20 years % 

Share of births to women 35 years & over % 

High teenage share 

Far West 

13.4

13.8

Western NSW 

7.6

15.1

Southern NSW 

6.9

18

Low teenage share 

Northern Sydney 

0.5

39.4

South Eastern Sydney 

1

33.5

Sydney 

1

33.8

NSW total 

(N= 3,199) 3.4 

(N=22,992) 24.2 

Population: Births in NSW.

Source: NSW Perinatal Data Collection (HOIST), Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Ministry of Health.


1 ABS (2011) Births, Australia. Cat no. 3301.0.  

2 NSW Health (1998) New South Wales Mothers and Babies 1996, Public Health Bulletin Supplement, Number 1, January 1998.