Canberra, June 29 (IANS) A new report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on Thursday said the country registered a total of 315,705 births in 2021 — a record high.

The latest figure represents an increase of approximately 20,000, or 6.7 per cent, from 2020, reports Xinhua news agency.

In 2021 the birth rate was 61 per 1,000 women of reproductive age (aged 15-44 years), up from 56 in 2020 but still lower than the 2007 peak of 66 per 1,000.

The average age of first-time mothers increased to 29.7 years compared to 28.4 years in 2011 as the trend of Australians having children later in life continued.

In 2021, around one in four women who gave birth were aged 35 years and over.

Despite higher risks of health complications associated with later-in-life pregnancies, most mothers aged 35 years and above and their babies do well, according to AIHW.

“We continue to see a consistent downward trend in the number of women who smoke while pregnant,” AIHW spokesperson Deanna Eldridge said in a statement.

In 2021, 8.7 per cent of mothers reported smoking during their pregnancy, down from 13 per cent in 2011.

Furthermore, more than one in five mothers who smoked at the start of their pregnancy quit after the first 20 weeks.