The figures compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute add to the perception some women dubbed “too posh to push” are opting for a C-section over a natural delivery.
The Activity in Acute Public Hospitals in Ireland 2010 annual report showed that one in four babies are delivered by C-section, or 26.4% of all births. This compares to a C-section rate of just 11% 20 years ago.
Of the women cared for under the public system, 24% had C-sections — with 44% pre-booking surgery. Among the private patients who gave birth in 2010, 35% delivered via C-section — with 60% of these opting for an elective procedure.
While the procedure was used in 25.7% of single deliveries it occurred in 64.3% of multiple births.
Almost twice as many women aged 35-44 gave birth by C-section (20.5%) than those in the 25-34 age group (11.3%). The 45+ age group saw 55.5% of births involving the procedure.
It has been argued that the economic downturn will reduce the rate as fewer pregnant women have private health insurance; women proportionately more likely to have an elective C-section.
However, booking a birth for a particular date is also of benefit to hospitals, who can then plan ahead.
Of 136,581 maternity admissions, 72,675 women gave birth. The remaining 63,908 admissions are a combination of women turning up to hospital in false labour or having a miscarriage.
Just over one in three (37%) cases involved an unmarried couple or single mother.
One in five (21%) of all maternity admissions were on a private basis.
While the majority of births involved mothers aged between 25 and 34 (57.6%), 26.3% of pregnant women were aged 20 or under and 0.2% (340 cases) were older than 45. Multiple deliveries accounted for just 1.7% of all cases.
A previous report from the Consumer Guide to Maternity Services in Ireland, published in May, found that almost one in every three first-time mothers underwent C-sections.
The survey said St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny had the highest rate of C-sections among first-time mothers at 43%, followed by the private Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin (36.1%).
However, not all facilities — such as the Cork University Maternity Hospital — provided figures.