Drop in teen pregnancies

FEWER teenagers are falling pregnant, and the average age for women having their first child now hitting 28.3, compared to 27.6 a decade earlier.

In the latest data put together by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of women over the age of 40 giving birth now outnumbers the number of teenagers having children.

Institute spokeswoman Professor Elizabeth Sullivan said although there was little research on why there was this gradual shift in birthing age, she said women were more educated, had more access to birth control and were more ambitious than ever before.

The constant discussion and debate surrounding having a child at home is barely reflected in the figures which show that less than half a percent of Australian women are giving birth at home.

Prof Sullivan said the figures on teenage mothers particular were good news, with younger women more likely to have miscarriages, premature births and even stillbirths.

"There are social, environmental and physiological risks associated with teenage births, particularly with very young teenagers," she said.

The data also suggests that 36% of teen mothers reported smoking while pregnant compared to the 13% average among all mothers.

There remains a high rate of teenage pregnancy for indigenous mothers, about six times the rate of non-indigenous mothers.

Professor Sullivan said there was little direct research on birthing trends in regional parts of Australia but would be considered in future studies.