Oh baby! Tweed tops state for young mums

WHEN it comes to having children, Tweed mums are getting in early - earlier than most women in NSW in fact.

New statistics show that local mums are much younger than the rest of those in NSW, with up to seven per cent only teenagers when they give birth.

Up to 20 per cent of North Coast women have children in their early 20s while only 28 per cent wait until they reach their early 30s.

It is an alarming picture that has emerged from a four-year state-wide study of the health of mothers and their babies in NSW.

Released by the North Coast Area Health Service earlier this week, the study intends to use this information to form strategies to tackle local health issues.

Around the state it shows 19.3 per cent of mums are waiting to have their first child until after their 35th birthday, a two per cent rise since 1999.

Many of these mums are choosing caesarean births (26 per cent) to reduce the risks associated with late motherhood.

On the Tweed the picture is very different.

The average North Coast mum is young and more likely to smoke (25 per cent) than her city counterpart.

She gets her antenatal checkups and gives birth in a hospital.

Almost seven per cent are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, almost three times the state average of 2.5 per cent.

And this is where the anomoly between state and local statistics lies.

North Coast Area Health Service executive director of population, health, planning and performance Vahid Saberi said a large aboriginal population explained many unusual birthing statistics.

"The Aboriginal community is a younger community with a lower life expectancy, hence they have children at a younger age," he said.

"On the North Coast this community is twice the state average size of 1.9 per cent, sitting around 3.5 per cent, and the Tweed has the second largest aboriginal population outside of Kempsey."

Mr Saberi said the results of the survey showed a lot of work had to be done in educating the Aboriginal and low socio-economic communities of the region.

"The state trend for smoking during pregnancy is falling. A lot of work has to be done in the low socio-economic and Aboriginal communities because more than 50 per cent smoke during pregnancy," he said.

"On the other hand, looking at antenatal checkups, which are above the state average, shows the investment we made in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander care there worked for us."

Mr Saberi said the statistics had not surprised local health carers and should be interpreted positively.

"It is much better to have a younger cohort of mothers," he said.

"Older residents put a much larger demand on health services. At 65-years plus the cost of care becomes huge.

"This is a very good picture for the North Coast and validates the focus of our work."

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