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The number of expectant women opting for private maternity care in Dublin has dropped significantly over the last decade, according to a study.

The researchers investigated the trends in maternity care from 2009 to 2017 in the Coombe Hospital, which delivers one in every eight births nationwide.

Compared with 2009, there was a 21pc decrease in the number of women attending the hospital privately and there was a 35pc fall in the number of women attending semi-privately in 2017.

The number of women attending publicly rose by 12pc by 2017.

The fall in private patients has led to concerns the country's 19 public maternity hospitals could be left with a shortfall in funding.

The study, led by Professor Michael Turner at the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction at the Coombe, found private maternity care fell in the wake of the recession.

The research also discovered the numbers opting for private care failed to return to former levels with the economic recovery in 2012.

"I suspect that when the economy recovered, women in their 20s and 30s in Ireland were still struggling with mortgage payments and negative equity," said Professor Turner.

Compared with public patients, the study found women choosing the private package of care were more likely to be older, Irish-born and married.

They were also more likely to be in professional or managerial employment, to be a non-smoker, to have planned their pregnancy, and to have a history of infertility or miscarriage.

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