First-time mums older as birth rate highest in Europe

FIRST-TIME mothers are getting older, caesarean rates continue to grow and our breastfeeding rate is inching upwards, statistics by the Economic and Social Research Unit (ESRI) show.

These latest results from the National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS), published today, reveal birth rates rose by a substantial 9% between 2006 and 2007. A total of 71,963 births were notified to the NPRS in 2007 giving Ireland the highest birth rate of any of the 27 EU countries in 2007.

The statistics also show 5% of babies were breastfed at discharge from hospital compared with 41% in 2003 and 36% in 1999. The average age of giving birth has also steadily increased from 30.1 years in 1999 to 31.1 years in 2007.

Single mothers accounted for 32% of all women giving birth, compared with 30% in 2003 and 1999.

The data also shows that of all first deliveries, 14% were to women aged 35 years or older; this has been increasing year on year, having stood at 9% in 1999.

The data shows that the average birth weight of babies born in 2007 is estimated at 3,465g or 7.6lb. Low birthweight babies (weighing less than 2,500g) represented 5% of all births in 2007, which is unchanged since 1999 and 6.1% of births in 2007 were preterm (born after less than 37 weeks of pregnancy), the highest reported rate since 1999 when the figure stood at 5.7%.

Meanwhile, 26% of babies were born by Caesarean section. This rate was 25% for single babies and 64% for multiple births. The C-section rate for live births was 20% in 1999.

There were 186 home births attended by independent domiciliary midwives in 2007 compared with 170 in 2006. And of all women giving birth that year, 42% were first-time births, with an average age of 28.8 years for first-time mothers.

The perinatal mortality rate was also recorded as 7.3 per 1,000 live births and stillbirths; this rate was 7.1 for singleton births and 14.5 for multiple births. Between 1999 and 2007, the highest perinatal mortality rate was 8.9 in 2000 and the lowest was 7.0 per 1,000 in 2006.

These NPRS results put the country’s 2007 twinning rate at 15.4 sets of twins per 1,000 maternities. In 2007, there were 1,092 sets of twin births and 27 sets of triplets.

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