Ireland’s birth rate has passed its peak with fewer children born every year since the 2009 peak, figures show.
The decline in the birth rate continued last year with 74,377 births notified to the National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS).
Compared with 75,600 births in 2010, the 2011 figure represents a reduction of 1.6% since 2010 and 2.2% since the peak of 76,021 in 2009.
Prof Miriam Wiley of the ESRI said the 2011 Perinatal Statistics Report, published today, showed a “tip” in birth numbers since 2009.
“We saw a smaller decrease in the number of births in 2010 and in 2011 we are seeing that trend continue so it looks as if we have passed a tipping point in terms of overall birth numbers,” she said.
Nevertheless, the report shows that, at 16.2 per 1,000 population, Ireland had the highest birth rate in the EU in 2011.The second highest EU birth rate was reported in the UK, at 12.9 per 1,000.
Of all women giving birth last year, 40% gave birth for the first time, with the average age slightly older at 29.8 years. Corresponding figures for 2010 were 41% and 29.4 years. A third of the births last year were to single mothers with an average age of 28.3 years. In 2002, 30% of the mothers were single and the average age was 25.7 years.
Almost 24% of births in 2011 were to mothers born outside Ireland, compared to almost 25% in 2010.
In 2004, when the perinatal statistics began to be collected, 16% of births were to non-national mothers.
The report shows a continuation in the decline in perinatal death — the death of a foetus or newborn.
“The continuation of a steady improvement in the perinatal mortality rate is an important indicator of the quality of obstetric care in Ireland,” Prof Wiley said.
NPRS figures show a 10% reduction in the perinatal rate last year when compared to 2010.
The report shows that the breastfeeding rate for Irish mothers, at 40%, is way behind the 75% rate for mothers from Europe and Australia.
Prof Wiley said it was the first time the nationality of the breast-feeding mother was given. “What we are seeing is a massive difference in the breastfeeding rates. The breastfeeding difference is a really important indicator for the Government to improve breastfeeding rates,” she said.
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