Open Access Open Badges Research article

Rates of obstetric intervention during birth and selected maternal and perinatal outcomes for low risk women born in Australia compared to those born overseas

Hannah G Dahlen1*, Virginia Schmied1, Cindy-Lee Dennis2 and Charlene Thornton1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, NSW, 2751, Australia

2 Department of Psychiatry; Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Community Health; Shirley Brown Chair in Women's Mental Health Research, Women's College Research Institute, University of Toronto Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, 155 College St, Toronto, ON, M5T 1P8, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-100

Published: 1 May 2013



There are mixed reports in the literature about obstetric intervention and maternal and neonatal outcomes for migrant women born in resource rich countries. The aim of this study was to compare the risk profile, rates of obstetric intervention and selected maternal and perinatal outcomes for low risk women born in Australia compared to those born overseas.


A population-based descriptive study was undertaken in NSW of all singleton births recorded in the NSW Midwives Data Collection between 2000–2008 (n=691,738). Risk profile, obstetric intervention rates and selected maternal and perinatal outcomes were examined.


Women born in Australia were slightly younger (30 vs 31 years), less likely to be primiparous (41% vs 43%), three times more likely to smoke (18% vs 6%) and more likely to give birth in a private hospital (26% vs 18%) compared to women not born in Australia. Among the seven most common migrant groups to Australia, women born in Lebanon were the youngest, least likely to be primiparous and least likely to give birth in a private hospital. Hypertension was lowest amongst Vietnamese women (3%) and gestational diabetes highest amongst women born in China (14%). The highest caesarean section (31%), instrumental birth rates (16%) and episiotomy rates (32%) were seen in Indian women, along with the highest rates of babies <10th centile (22%) and <3rd centile (8%). Lebanese women had the highest rates of stillbirth (7.2/1000). Similar trends were found in the different migrant groups when only low risk women were included.


The results suggest there are significant differences in risk profiles, obstetric intervention rates and maternal and neonatal outcomes between Australian-born and women born overseas and these differences are seen overall and in low risk populations. The finding that Indian women (the leading migrant group to Australia) have the lowest normal birth rate and high rates of low birth weight babies is concerning, and attention needs to be focused on why there are disparities in outcomes and on effective models of care that might improve outcomes for this population.

Migrant; Immigrant; Induction; Vaginal birth; Obstetric care; Caesarean; Multicultural; Indian; Lebanese