Caesarean sections on the rise in ACT

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. Photo: Rohan Thomson

More women are having caesarean sections than ever before in the ACT, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia's mothers and babies 2011, showed ACT has jumped from having the lowest proportion of caesarean section procedures in Australia in 2009, to now being close to the Australian average, with 32.1 per 100 women who gave birth having the procedure.

Chief Minister and Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher, said this increase was in line with what was going on outside the territory.

"We know that caesarean rates are going up across the country," she said "There's no cause for alarm in these rates."

The report also revealed that alongside Victoria, the ACT has the lowest number of teenage mothers and highest number of mums over 40 years old.

Ms Gallagher said data showing the age of new mothers had risen could be explained by the number of women in the workforce.

Overall she said it was pleasing to see the ACT received a ''healthy report card''.

"It is great to see that the ACT has performed well when compared to other jurisdictions when it comes to the health of pregnant and new mothers," she said.

Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Australian National University, Steve Robson, said a rise in caesarean section rates was most likely influenced by the advancing maternal age the territory.


"The ACT is catching up with the rest of Australia in terms of obesity and has the highest proportion of older women having babies," he said. "These are both extremely powerful risk factor for things going wrong during a pregnancy."

Professor Robson said women were more informed about potential risks and took more of an active role in decisions about the birth.

"Women and their doctors are unwilling to take risks with their babies," he said.

"Rather than try a difficult and traumatic instrumental delivery a caesarean is preferred."

Rates of perinatal death were higher than the national average at 11.2 per 1000 births for babies born in the ACT.

However, the figures for ACT residents only were below the national average suggesting a number of high-risk births were referred to the ACT.

Ms Gallagher said ACT hospitals provide state-of-the-art facilities and take on numbers of tertiary referrals to assist families in the regions.

"What it means is over and above our population we have very sick and fragile babies coming to Canberra as the centre for their treatment, Ms Gallagher said.

"It's not any cause for concern but merely reflects our role as a regional service provider."