Baby birth rates bumping up
AREAS outside of Grafton and the Lower River are experiencing a rise in the fertility rate, according to latest figures from the Australia Bureau of Statistics.
While Grafton's birth rate held steady in the figures for the 2017 year, the average fertility rate of the Clarence Valley is well above the national average.
In 2017, Grafton recorded 214 births for an estimated population of 19,063 with a total fertility rate per woman of 2.22 babies.
Outside the Grafton area, there were 155 births for a population of 15,602 people for a rate of 2.17 babies per woman, while in the Lower Clarence there were 132 births for 16,576 people with a fertility rate of 1.95 babies per woman.
The number of births in Grafton is slightly down year-on-year with 228 births registered in 2016 and 255 in 2015, with the fertility rate steady.
Outside Grafton, the numbers are higher with 120 an 119 babies born outside Grafton in 2016 and 2015, and in the Lower River 116 and 115 born over the two years.
Local figures show that births increased in 2018, with Grafton Base Hospital's internal figures for babies born in the maternity unity increasing by 10 after a drop.
Grafton Base Hospital maternity unit manager Tina Morrison said that after a decrease from 400-450 births from 2013-2016, they had dropped to 378 births in 2017.
"In 2018 we had 386 pregnancies for 389 babies, which is a nice increase and really good for us,” she said.
"There were three sets of twins, which is a usual number as higher risk twins are sent to Lismore.”
Ms Morrison said that of the births, 131 were first-time mothers and 255 who were birthing for the second or more time - with a total caesarian rate of around 33 per cent, something she said they were trying to decrease.
"With every operative procedure there is always an added risk, so the lower we can get that rate the better,” she said.
"We have a couple of wonderful water immersion baths here, and I'm really keen to have them used as a method for pain relief, as they are underutilised and an exciting focus for us.”
Ms Morrison said also that contrary to popular opinion, a lot of women qualified to have vaginal birth after a caesarian.
Across the country, the average fertility rate is 1.74 babies per woman, the lowest the rate has been since 2001.
The fertility rate required to replace a woman and her partner was 2.1, with the Australian rate not having reached that figure since the mid-1970's.
The latest data also showed that women are leaving having children until later in life, with the median age of mothers at 31.3 years. The fertility rate of women aged 35-39 has more than doubled over the past 30 years, while it has tripled in women aged 40-44. Conversely, the teenage fertility rate has nearly halved.