More than half of first-time mothers are in their 30s

Irish first-time mothers are older than the European average and are having more children than mothers in many parts of the EU, figures released by Eurostat to mark International Day of Families reveal.

Ireland also has a lower teen pregnancy rate than the European average (4.7% in comparison to the EU average of 5.4%), a rate that last year fell to its lowest in 50 years, according to the CSO.

Ireland does, however, have a higher than average proportion of women in their 40s giving birth for the first time (3.4% versus the EU average of 2.8%) — an age group that has a higher rate of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

Figures contained in a new report on Severe Maternal Morbidity (SMM) in Ireland Annual Report 2012/2013, found SMM increases with increasing maternal age, and that 35- to 39-year-olds and women over 40 had “almost twice and three times the SMM rate of 20- to 24-year-olds”.

The national audit of the country’s 20 maternity units, published by the Cork-based National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, also found that women who had three children or more “were over-represented among SMM cases compared to the general pregnant population”.

The Eurostat figures found the majority of first- time births in the EU (51.2%) were to women in their 20s, with Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Greece bucking the trend. In Ireland, 52.7% of first births were to women in their 30s, while in Spain almost three in five first births were to women aged 30-39.

Ireland also stood out as a country of large families, where 17.6% of births were recorded as third children (EU average 11.8%), and 9% of births were recorded as a fourth or subsequent (the EU average is 5.4%).

The youngest average ages of first-time mothers were recorded in Eastern Europe: Bulgaria (25.7 years), Romania (25.8), and Latvia (26.1). Conversely, women were oldest on average when giving birth to their first child in Italy (30.6 years), Spain (30.4), Luxembourg (30.0), and Greece (29.9).

The highest share of births of first children to teenage mothers was in Romania (15.6% of total births of first children in 2013).

The lowest shares were observed in Italy, at just 1.8%.

At the opposite end of the age range, the highest proportions of births of first children in 2013 to women aged 40 and over were registered in Italy — 6.1% of total births of first children in 2013.

Eurostat is the statistical office of the EU.

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