Nearly half of all mothers (47%) who registered a baby in 1999 were aged 30 years and over, this was up from one quarter (24%) in 1979. By 1999, women aged 30-34 years had overtaken those aged 25-29 in having the highest fertility rate (108.5 babies per 1,000 women).
The age of women having a baby has steadily increased over time. A mother's median age (where half of mothers were below and half above that age) has increased from 26.5 years in 1979 to 29.7 in 1999, the highest since the beginning of the twentieth century. ABS projections assume the median age of mothers will reach 31.2 years by 2008.
The number of births registered in Australia during 1999 (248,900) declined marginally compared to 1998, reflecting the continuation of declining fertility in Australia. This fall in fertility is associated with the decline in the number of births to young women. On 1999 rates, a woman can expect to have 1.75 babies in her life, well below the level needed for a woman to replace herself and her partner (2.1 births per woman). Australia's fertility has been at below replacement level since 1976. Currently, it is lower than that of the United States of America (2.0) and New Zealand (1.9) but above the levels of Canada (1.5), Japan (1.4) and many European countries such as Italy (1.2).
Teenage girls are now less likely to be mothers. The teenage fertility rate (the number of births in a given year per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years) has been declining since the 1970s, such that teenage girls are now less likely to be mothers than they were thirty years ago. The rate of childbearing among Australian teenage girls peaked at 55.5 births per 1,000 females in 1971, before falling to half its peak level (27.6) by 1980, and reaching its lowest ever rate of 18.1 births per 1,000 females in 1999.
Of all births registered in 1999, 43% were first births, 32% were second births and the remaining (25%) were third or higher births. If these trends were to continue, it is estimated that over a quarter (26%) of all women would remain childless at the end of their reproductive life.
Further information can be found in Births, Australia 1999 (Cat. No. 3301.0) released on 16 November 2000. The publication also contains three special articles, Food and nutrient consumption during pregnancy, Teenage fertility and Birth order specific fertility rates in Australia, 1986-1999.