TEENAGE pregnancy in Ireland has dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s.
There were 2,043 births to mothers under the age of 20 during 2010, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said in its latest report.
The figure represents less than 3pc of all babies born that year – the lowest recorded since 1966.
Births to teenage mothers reached a peak in 1999 – at 6.2pc of all newborns.
The CSO also reveals the number of births during 2010 dipped slightly for the first time in five years. Despite the drop – down to 75,174 babies from 75,554 in 2009 – it remained the second-highest in Ireland since 1896. There were 27,961 deaths here that year.
Meanwhile, iconic landmarks will be lit up in purple tonight to honour the 4,500 babies who are born prematurely here every year as part of World Prematurity Day.
Dublin's Mansion House and Liberty Hall, as well as Cork's City Hall, will be illuminated in the regal colour on the second annual day recognising the plight of the 15 million babies born prematurely around the world each year.
Meanwhile, a new study reveals that mothers of premature babies in Ireland have deep-rooted fears about the long-term developmental hurdles their children will face.
A majority of mothers – 87pc – fear their premature babies will be more susceptible to disease as they grow older.
Dr Christopher Howson, author of 'Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth', said their worries are not unfounded.
"Babies who are born before they are ready to face the world require special care and face greater risks of serious health problems. . . Prematurity is a growing global issue and it needs to have a place on the health policy agenda of every country," he said.
Meanwhile, media student Eoghan Bell (21), from Culdaff, Co Donegal, knows only too well the heartbreak of losing a premature baby. He was just 20 when his baby daughter Lucy was born a month early in January 2011. Tragically she only lived for two hours. The infant was suffering from what doctors believe was the extremely rare Nager Syndrome, a condition affecting the development of the face, airway and limbs.
"Lucy wasn't here for long. . . but now she will be remembered for helping me and my mum achieve our goal and raise money for charity," he said.
He organised several fundraisers and enlisted the help of his athlete mum, Eilish Bell (46), who ran four marathons in four days for the charity Stillborn and Neonatal Deaths (SANDs) raising close to €2,000, and another €1,850 for the Donegal Hospice.