National Women's Health Policy

Fertility and infertility

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Shifts in Australian society have brought major changes to the lives of Australian women. Family sizes are smaller and women are bearing children later. In 2008 the median age of mothers at birth was 30.7 years. 257 In 2007 women aged 30–34 experienced the highest fertility of all Australian women, with 126.6 babies per 1,000 women.258 Many women are having children at an older age, often to first establish a position in the workforce and achieve material security. The shift towards delaying motherhood can have an effect on fertility, which declines with age. There is an increasing occurrence of infertility, with one in six couples experiencing fertility problems.259 The chance of having a healthy baby also decreases with age, which may soon have implications for the provision of health services.

Five per cent of young women reported having had sex which resulted in pregnancy.260 Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women also report higher rates of teenage pregnancy than non-Indigenous young women (more than five times higher in 2006).261 Rural and remote young women also have higher rates of teenage pregnancy.

The education of young women and provision of accessible contraceptive measures is necessary for the prevention of unplanned pregnancy. This is important since mothering a child at a young age is associated with poor social, economic and health outcomes. Rates of teenage birth remain high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and disadvantaged communities. Nationally, the rate of births to teenage mothers in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (76 per 1,000) was more than five times higher than in the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population at 14 per 1,000 population. Teenage birth rates were eight times higher for females living in the most disadvantaged areas (32 births per 1,000 females) than in the least disadvantaged areas (4 births per 1,000 females). Teenage births are also associated with lower incomes and poorer educational attainment and employment prospects for both mother and child 262, which in turn can have negative impacts on both their physical and mental health.