New statistics show NZ has a lower birth rate, but higher caeserean rates

17 August 2017
pregnant woman

The latest Report on Maternity finds that the birth rate has dropped to the lowest in a decade, but the caesarean section rates have increased.  

The Ministry of Health has released the latest report which provides a profile of mothers and babies in 2015, along with details about pregnancy and childbirth experience.   

Key findings from the report include:

  • The lowest birth rate in a decade
    In 2015, nearly 59,000 women gave birth which equates to a birth rate of 63.6 per 1,000 women of reproductive age.  This is the lowest rate since 2006.

  • More older women are giving birth
    In the ten years between 2006 and 2015, the number of women aged 30 years and younger giving birth dropped. However, the number of women aged 35 years and older giving birth increased.  There was marked 15% increase in the number of women over 40 giving birth.

  • More European women were giving birth
    Of the women giving birth in 2015:
    - Almost half of the women giving birth were European
    - A quarter of the women giving birth were Maori
    - More than half were aged between 25 and 24 years
    - A third of women lived in deprived neighbourhoods
    - Nearly two thirds had previously given birth.

  • Most women used a midwife
    Most women registered for a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) and most used a midwife.  More than two-thirds of women who registered with an LMC did so within their first trimester of pregnancy in 2015.

  • Most women gave birth at hospital or maternity facility
    More than 85% of women gave birth at a secondary or tertiary facility, and 10% at a primary maternity facility.

  • Home births were more common among Maori and European women
    Around 4% of women giving birth in 2015 had a planned home birth. Home births were more common among women over the age of 25, Maori and European women and women living on the West Coast and Northland.

  • Elective caesarean section rates have increased
    A quarter of women had a caesarean section, while around two-thirds had a spontaneous vaginal birth and the remainder had an assisted vaginal birth.
    There’s been a significant increase in the proportion of elective caesarean sections and a significant decrease in spontaneous vaginal births. The proportion of women having an emergency caesarean section or assisted birth showed less variation over the same time period.
    Caesarean sections were more common among women over the age of 35; Indian, Asian and European women; and women living in more well off neighbourhoods.

  • A third of women had a normal birth
    One in every three women giving birth had a spontaneous vaginal birth without obstetric intervention in labour or birth.
    Half of women had at least one form of obstetric intervention during labour and birth:
    - 26% had an epidural
    - 25% had their labour augmented
    - 24% had an induction
    - 14% had an episiotomy.

  • There were more boys born than girls
    51% of all babies born were boys.

  • The average birthweight was 3.41kg
    The average birthweight of babies born in 2015 was similar to that of babies born in previous years, at 3.41 kg. Asian babies (particularly Indian) and female babies had lower average birthweight. About 6% of babies were born with a low birthweight.

  • Median gestation was 39 weeks
    The vast majority of babies were born at term, while 7% were born preterm.
    Of the babies born at term, 2% had a low birthweight. Babies born to Indian women were more likely to have a low birthweight than other ethnic groups.

  • Most babies were exclusively or fully breastfed
    Almost 80% of babies were exclusively breastfed at two-weeks of age. Exclusive or full breastfeeding was most common among babies of European and Indian women; those living in well-off neighbourhoods, and those living in the Tairāwhiti DHB region.


You can read the full report on maternity in New Zealand here.