A BABY boom is sweeping our region, with Campaspe, Gannawarra and Loddon shires topping the state’s fertility chart.
Gannawarra Shire occupied first place, with women in the area giving birth to an average of 2.41 children, more than twice the number of those living in inner Melbourne.
Loddon followed closely behind at 2.31, while Campaspe wrapped up the top 10 at 2.22.
In contrast, the new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics placed Melbourne last, with inner-city females giving birth to 0.86 babies on average.
Echuca Regional Health chief nursing officer June Dyson said Campaspe’s numbers came as no surprise, with the hospital experiencing a surge in births throughout the previous three years.
“For many years ERH averaged around 300 births each year. In the 2014-15 financial year we had a record 385 babies born at ERH. This dropped slightly last year to around 340 births,” she said.
“We are likely to record almost 400 births by the end of 2017-18 financial year.”
Ms Dyson said the personalised service offered at Echuca Regional Health was a drawcard for women looking to give birth.
“The feedback we have from mothers birthing with us consistently identifies the value women place on the personalised care they receive from our doctors and midwives,” she said.
“We are very fortunate to have first class birthing facilities at ERH and a stable, dedicated and highly experienced midwifery and GP obstetrician team who provide exceptional care for women giving birth.”
Ms Dyson was uncertain why birthrates were so much higher in rural areas than in the city.
“However, we do know country communities are a great place to raise a family,” she said.
Cohuna District Hospital chief executive Michael Delahunty said the hospital would continue to maintain quality obstetric services — particularly now Gannawarra Shire has topped the fertility chart.
“It’s an interesting statistic, but it’s tough to explain why there’s such a difference between birthrates in Gannawarra Shire and Melbourne,” he said.
Birthrates have swelled slightly in the past year at Cohuna hospital, from 42 births in the previous financial year to an estimated 50-60 this year.
“With Kerang District Health no longer providing maternity services, we’re now the only birthing centre in the shire, so there’s been a marginal increase in birthing activity,” Mr Delahunty said.
“We are pleased to provide this quality obstetric service to the community.”
The state’s overall birthrate is the second-lowest it’s been in a decade at 1.73, significantly below the replacement rate (which maintains the population) of 2.1.
Women aged in their late teens and early 20s have hit a record low birthrate compared to older women.
In contrast, birthrates among women aged 45-49 have almost tripled in the past decade.