Pregnancy, birth and baby
It’s important that all pregnant women can find the support they need to keep themselves and their babies safe. The health of a baby at birth can affect their wellbeing throughout the rest of their lives. Find out what we’re doing to improve pregnancy, birth and baby health for all Australians.
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Pregnancy, birth and baby care in Australia
A mother’s health — including her age, weight and whether she smoked or drank alcohol during pregnancy — affects both the mother and her baby.
In 2017, more than 300,000 women in Australia gave birth:
- 1 in 10 of these women smoked during their pregnancy
- 20% were classified as obese and 25.6% as overweight but not obese
- 1 in 4 continued to drink alcohol after they found out they were pregnant.
How healthy a baby is at birth can affect their health and wellbeing throughout life. This is why our work on pregnancy, birth and baby health is so important.
Pregnancy, birth and baby hotline
You can call this hotline to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and guidance. Hours are from 7 am to midnight (AEST/EADT), 7 days a week (including public holidays).
What we’re doing about pregnancy, birth and baby
Our plans, strategies and programs guide our work to improve pregnancy, birth and baby health for all Australians.
We do this in many ways, including:
- developing the pregnancy care guidelines for maternity service providers
- developing the pregnancy physical activity guidelines
- coordinating newborn bloodspot screening programs
- writing 24 hour movement guidelines for birth to 5 years to encourage fun activity and play
- providing information on immunisation for pregnancy
- funding the pregnancy, birth and baby website, including the hotline
- protecting, promoting, supporting and monitoring breastfeeding throughout Australia
- providing information on stillbirth and maternity services including our work on the National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services
- providing travel advice for pregnant women going to areas affected by Zika virus
- providing guidance on policy and program development and implementation of services that meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is culturally safe
- programs designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait maternal and child health, such as the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program.
COVID-19 and breastfeeding
Women are encouraged to continue breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no evidence breastmilk carries COVID-19. However, the virus passes easily from person to person through close contact.
If you have COVID-19 or think you might, it is very important that you:
- clean your hands before and after touching your baby
- wear a face mask when you’re within 1.5 metres of your baby
- regularly clean and disinfect any surfaces you touch
- get tested if you become unwell.
Women who are unwell may prefer to express breastmilk for their baby. Breastmilk can be expressed by hand or with a manual or electric breast pump. Hand washing before and after expressing, and using a sterilised pump help prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Further guidance on expressing and storing breastmilk can be found on the Raising Children Network website.
Having a healthy adult assist you to care for your baby can also help stop the virus from spreading.
Your doctor may recommend further precautions. It is recommended that all women avoid close contact with people who are unwell and follow hand and cough hygiene advice.
Remember though, the well‑proven benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any risk of transmitting coronavirus to your baby.
Breastfeeding helps to prevent and fight infection and also helps mothers bond with their babies.
Experts recommend mothers:
- breastfeed exclusively for the first six months
- continue breastfeeding once a baby starts solids
- continue breastfeeding until the baby’s first birthday and for as long as both mother and baby wish.
Although exclusive breastfeeding is ideal in the first six months, any amount of breastfeeding is good for babies and mother.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has further advice about COVID-19 and breastfeeding. The ABA also runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268). This free call service has trained counsellors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.