Baby boom fears as we top league for EU birth rates
CONCERNS for the future funding of the country's maternity services were expressed last night as figures show Ireland topping Europe's birth rate league.
Ireland's birth rate of 17 per 1,000 population was the highest of any of the 27 EU countries, according to the latest figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute.
While the figures are more than two years old and the rate of increase in births is expected to slow, health experts said it was important that maternity services were not compromised in the future.
Figures for the national perinatal reporting system for 2008 show a 5pc increase in births which rose to 75,587 that year.
They also reveal that women are waiting until they are older to have children and that the number of home births has dropped.
Last night Dr Michael Turner, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Coombe Hospital, Dublin, said the report was vital for the planning of primary and secondary schools in the future.
The main findings for 2008 include:
- The average age of women giving birth has increased from 30.1 to 31.1 years.
- More than 26pc of women giving birth were 35 years or older, up from 21pc in 1999.
- Almost 26pc of women delivered by caesarean section.
- 42pc gave birth for the first time.
- Home births down from 186 to 158.
- More than a fifth of births were to mothers born outside Ireland.
The report also showed that more than 2,400 births were to mothers between the ages of 15-19 with nine births recorded to mothers under 15 years. A further 165 births were recorded to mothers of 45 years and over.
In 2004, almost 85pc of total births were to women born in Ireland. But this fell to 77.5pc in 2008.
Prof Turner said the fact that the average maternal age was now 31.1 years was not surprising and showed that women were staying longer in full-time education and deferring having babies until they had completed that education.
The link between the economy and birth rate in Ireland also differed when compared to other countries.
While the rate dropped during the economic boom in other countries, there was no such decrease here.
The Irish seemed to like making babies but we would have to see what happened now that the economy was in a downturn, Prof Turner added.