Having a healthy weight at birth provides children with a good start in life, while low birthweight infants are prone to ill-health in childhood and to chronic disease as adults (AIHW 2011). The importance of healthy birthweight is also reflected in the Closing the Gap Target 2 to increase the proportion of Indigenous babies with a healthy birthweight to 91 per cent by 2031 – see Target 2 in the Closing the Gap Information Repository.
In 2019, almost 9 in 10 (89.5%) Indigenous babies were born with a healthy birthweight. Over the period 2013 to 2019 the average birthweight among Indigenous babies has remained consistent (3,256 grams in 2013 and 3,265 grams in 2019). The proportion of Indigenous babies born with a healthy birthweight decreased with remoteness area from 91% in Major cities to 86% in Very remote Australia (Figure 4.3).
Figure 4.3: Average birthweight babies (2013–2019) and proportion of babies born with a low birthweight by remoteness (2019)
Poor antenatal care and smoking during pregnancy are risk factors for low birthweight. Antenatal care is the professional health care provided to mothers during pregnancy, to ensure the best health outcomes for both mother and baby.
In 2019, Indigenous babies whose mothers attended antenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy (14 weeks) were less likely to have a low birthweight compared with those who whose mother attended after the first trimester/did not attend (8.1% compared with 11.1%).
Over the period from 2009 to 2019, the proportion of Indigenous mothers who smoked during pregnancy decreased by 8 percentage points (from 52% to 44%). In 2019, 13.9% of Indigenous babies born to a mother who smoked had a low birthweight, compared with 5.7% born to a mother who did not smoke.
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