Australian women look for one healthy baby and a happy relationship, but their drinking and smoking could ruin their dreams.
The latest edition in the ongoing Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health, released today, focuses on women's reproductive health.
The 2009 report reveals that 91 per cent of the younger women wanted to have children. While the most common desire was for two children, the number of women aiming for just one child increased over time, as they grew older.
There has been a shift, from families of four or more children for women born between 1921 and 1926, to many of today's 30-somethings who are yet to start a family and only want one child.
"... the popularity of the single-child family increased across surveys as the women became older, while the popularity of larger families of two or more children started to decline," the authors wrote. "Decisions to have fewer children could reflect the ages at which women are having their first children."
"This poses challenges right across the spectrum of policies for the national government, particularly in the area of health care provision," Health Minister Nicola Roxon told The Sunday Mail
"The Government is seeking to tackle these challenges head-on through targeted investments to provide more choice for potential mothers."
Marriage remains on the agenda for most of the younger women, and this has remained consistent since the first survey in 1996 when they were aged 18 to 23. Women who hoped for marriage were more likely to want two or more children compared to other women.
But then infertility and pregnancy losses are also becoming common. Among women who had tried to conceive or had been pregnant, one in six had experienced infertility for 12 months or more.
The most significant factors associated with infertility were polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and miscarriage.
Other reproductive issues examined in the 2009 Women's Health Australia report include contraception, fertility problems, maternal health including postnatal depression, and taking part in paid work.
Lead authors Deborah Loxton and Jayne Lucke found that, while pregnant women generally improved their diet and exercise regimen after conceiving, many did not. Continued smoking and heavy drinking during pregnancy were major concerns because of their known effects on fetal development, and many women were not getting enough necessary nutrients like folate, iodine and iron.
Health Minister Roxon said the Government was developing a women's health policy which she expected to finalise mid-year following nationwide consultations.
She said that having a baby could be a difficult choice but it was important to encourage women to do so because they would provide the new generation Australia would need to prosper.
The Australian Government has recognised the need for better support for women who are or who want to become mothers on a number of fronts including -
improving choice and access to maternity services through a $120.5 million package of measures services, funded in the 2009-10 Budget
supporting a National Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Alliance with funding of $1.134 million, including development of world-first guidelines on caring for women with the syndrome
developing a new National Women's Health Policy
introducing the nation's first comprehensive, statutory, Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme, to enable to parents to spend more time with their babies during the vital early months.