MORE than 150 women will travel across the border to give birth at a Newry Hospital this year.
"So far this year between January and April, there have been 64 infants born at Daisy Hill Hospital to mothers with addresses in the Republic of Ireland," a spokesperson said.
She told the Herald that a further 82 women are booked to use the services up to November.
The spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust confirmed that its private services are not confined to women living in a particular catchment area.
"Women living in any part of the Republic of Ireland can access private maternity services at Daisy Hill Hospital," she said.
The figures from the hospital show that around one in eight babies born at the hospital went home to an address south of the border last year.
The total number of births at the hospital from January to December last year was 2167, and of these 289 babies were born to mums living in the republic.
She said that: "The private consultant charge for maternity care is £2,000 (€2,351), and the hospital charge per night for accommodation for private patients is £390 (€458)."
She added that private health insurers provide a grant for normal deliveries, and usually cover the costs for a caesarean section.
It is believed that Irish women are opting to give birth across the border for a variety of reasons -- for some the location is convenient to where they are living.
However, the private obstetric costs are lower across the border.
Many private consultants south of the border, who arrange their fees independently of the hospitals, have increased their fees in recent years.
Meanwhile the Newry hospital's charges per night for accommodation for private patients are significantly less.
However, there appears to be a drop in the number of women travelling to give birth at the Newry hospital this year based on the numbers booked in, up until this November. This may be as a result of less favourable exchange rates.
Despite the recession, Ireland has been in the grip of a baby boom.
It is expected that by the end of 2010, 75,728 children will be born in Ireland, which is a 1pc increase on last year's numbers.