The rate of emergency caesarean section in Irish mothers is nearly twice that of Eastern European women who have babies in Ireland, according to new Irish research.
The research also found that Irish women giving birth are more likely to be obese, to smoke and to have induced births.
In the study, first-time mothers giving birth in Ireland were divided into three groups - those born in Ireland, those from EU 14 countries (pre-EU enlargement) and those from EU 12 countries (post-enlargement, largely Eastern European)
The study found that one in five (19.8%) of the Irish-born first-time mothers surveyed ultimately needed an emergency caesarean, compared with just one in eight (12.5%) of women from EU 12 countries. Of the women from the EU 14 countries, 11.4% needed an emergency caesarean.
The research also found that 42.5% of the Irish group of first-time mothers had an induction of labour, compared to 31% of the EU 12 group, nd 40% of the EU 14 group.
Both Irish and EU 14 first-time mothers had higher weight and BMI compared to EU 12 women in the study.
The research was carried out by UCD and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). Just over 2,800 women, including 2,235 Irish women, were enrolled in the study.
Induction of labour is known to be associated with a higher risk of caesarean section than spontaneous labour, especially for first-time mothers. The authors point out that there is is a higher incidence of obstetric interventions such as inductions and caesareans among obese women.
According to Prof Michael Turner of Dublin's Coombe Hospital andUCD, obesity can have a seriously negative effect on almost every aspect of pregnancy and childbirth.
He said pregnant obese women are more likely to develop conditions such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
"Crucially, obesity in expectant women is also associated with late delivery and induction of labour. Induction is associated with a higher rate of caesarean section, particularly in first-time mothers - and so the complicating factor of obesity can be said to have a very disruptive and potentially harmful impact on mother and baby from the first trimester (three months) through to delivery," Prof Turner said.
According to Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI, it has been known for some time that there are ethnic variations in caesarean rates. However, he said there were factors that can be changed to help reduce complications and interventions,namely obesity and the decision to induce.
The research is published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.