National Women's Health Policy

3. Sexual and reproductive health

Page last updated: 07 February 2011


Chlamydia is the most notified infection within Australia. As chlamydia is often asymptomatic, it can be transmitted and left untreated without the infected person being aware of the infection. Untreated chlamydia in wormen may lead to infections of the cervix, uterus and pelvis. Complications may result iin pelvic pain, infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

Between 2003 and 2008, the rates of chlamydia diagnosis have almost double. Woment are 50 per cent more likely than men to have a chlamydia infection detected. The highest rates of infection occur in the 15-19 and the 20-29 year age groups, with 80 per cent of all infections being in these groups in 2008.

line graph showing chlamydia notifications per 100,000 people 1995-2009

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Australia has a low prevalence of HIV by international standards and new notification rates have remained constant from 2004 to 2008. Around 25 per cent of notifications in this period have been attributed to heterosexual transmission. A particularly vulnerable group in this instance is women from culturally divers backgrouds with 59 per cent of new notifications over the past five yers coming from a person from a high HIV prevalen country, or a person whose sexual partner was from a high prevalence country.

Maternal health

Maternal mortality rates in Australia are low, with a maternal mortality ratio of 8.4 deaths per 100,000 females who gave birth in 2003-05.

There has been an increase in maternal age over the past decade, The National Perinatal Data Collection shows that average age of all women giving birth was 29.9, compared with 28.9 in 1998. The average age of first time mothers was 28.2 years in 2007, an increase from 27.0 in 1998. In 2007, 4.1 per cent of all femailes that gave birth were aged under 20 years (compared with 5.1 per cent in 1998) and 22.3 per cent were aged 35 years or 20 years (compared with 5.1 per cent in 1998) and 22.3 per cent were aged 35 years or older (compared to 15.7 per cent in 1998).

Increase maternal age is associated with a range of maternal and infrant risks including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, congenital abnormalities and an increased need for both interventions such as induction and caesarean section.

Column graph showing maternal age 1975 - 2008
The rate of caesarean sections being undertaken has increased significantly over the past decade from 21.1 per cent in 1998 to 30.9 per cent in 2007.