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Births to older mums on the rise
[Posted: Tue 28/06/2011 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
The average age of women giving birth in Ireland continues to rise, with at least one in four now aged 35 or older, a new report has shown.
According to the Perinatal Statistics Report 2009, 76,021 births were registered in 2009, giving Ireland the highest birth rate per head of population in the EU.
The average age of women giving birth increased from 30.2 years in 2000 to 31.3 years in 2009. Over 27% of women giving birth were aged 35 or older, compared to 22% in 2000.
The number of teenagers giving birth fell from almost 6% in 2000 to 3% in 2009.
Of all the women giving birth in 2009, at least four in 10 (42%) were first time mothers. They had an average age of 29.1. One in three births were to single mothers, with an average age of 27.5 years.
Around one in four (24%) births were to mothers born outside Ireland.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) which compiled the report, pointed out that Ireland's fertility rate is now 2.1 and this is the level required for the long-term replacement of the population in the absence of any net inward migration.
The birth rate is now 17 per 1,000 population, compared to 14.1 per 1,000 in 2000.
The report also shows that 1,186 sets of twins, 13 sets of triplets and one set of quadruplets were born in 2009.
Meanwhile, 2009 saw a fall in the number of still births and deaths of newborns.
As in previous years, the rate of women having Caesarean sections has increased. Over 26% of women delivered by Caesarean section in 2009, compared to 21% in 2000 - this represents a 25% increase in deliveries by Caesarean section over the last decade.
The average birth weight of babies born in 2009 was 3,466g (7.6lbs). Low birth weight babies, weighing less than 2,500g (5.5lbs), represented 5% of all births in 2009, which is unchanged since 2000.
Over 45% of babies were reported to be exclusively breastfed at discharge from hospital, compared to 38% in 2000.
The report notes that the number of home births attended by an independent domiciliary midwife fell from 216 in 2000 to 148 in 2009.
Commenting on the findings, Prof Michael Turner, director of the HSE's obstetrics and gynaecology programme, said that a continuing increase in the Caesarean section rate, together with an increase in the number of multiple births, ‘is indicative of increasing complexity'.
"Serious challenges will therefore arise as we aim to ensure a successful outcome of pregnancy for both the mother and her offspring in the face of the decreasing healthcare budget," he added.
This report is based on information provided to the National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS). In 2009, 20 maternity hospitals/units and 17 independent midwives in Ireland reported to the NPRS.
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