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Snow babies put heat on maternity wards

MATERNITY wards are bursting at the seams as rising numbers of women are delivering babies conceived during the snowy months.

Snow babies -- newborns conceived during last winter's cold snap -- are now contributing to massive overcrowding in labour wards around the country.

Women are being forced to give birth in admissions rooms and antenatal rooms because delivery rooms are full to capacity, according to birth support groups.

Pauline Treanor, Secretary General Manager at the Rotunda hospital, said the hospital is experiencing a baby boom -- as numbers are up on last year.

"Yes we are experiencing an increase in births. The Rotunda births are up 7.8pc this year to date on 2010. We do expect this increase to continue based on the numbers booking for delivery in the coming six months."

However, she added: "We have not directed any expectant women to other hospitals."

According to the Coombe hospital, births so far for September 2011 are already up almost 5pc on this month last year. But the hospital expects that the birth rate for the full year will be at a similar rate to 2010, a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the National Maternity Hospital said 6,182 women have delivered at least one baby at the hospital so far this year between January and August 2011. There were a total of 9,756 deliveries in 2010 at the maternity hospital last year.

Tracey Donnegan, author of The Better Birth Book and director of Doula Ireland, said the snow baby phenomenon is now appearing in maternity wards, which have already been stretched to capacity due to a steady increase in birth over the past few years.

"It was the same last year when we had the ice. Nine months later you're guaranteed to have more people coming into maternity hospitals.

"And even with the current baby boom that's been predicted for years, this is the added strain to the hospital.

"It is a production line to get the women in and out of hospital as quickly as possible. Dublin hospitals are heading towards 30,000 births this year and they've only 30 delivery beds."

Jene Kelly, founder of Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services Ireland (AIMSI), said: "The hospitals are absolutely bursting at the seams. We're seeing women saying that after giving birth, they're going onto the antenatal ward, and they're giving birth in admission rooms and antenatal rooms because there are no delivery rooms available.

"For the whole of Dublin, excluding Mount Carmel, there are only 30 delivery bedrooms. So hospitals are trying to decrease the amount of time women have in delivery suites."

Krysia Lynch, also from AIMSI, said even first time mothers are being rushed through their first appointments at the hospitals.

"Some of the more popular services are being over-stretched. It's harder for women to get onto them. Mothers trying to get onto them are being told that the services are over-subscribed."

Audrey Byrne from Finglas, who gave birth to her daughter Nakita six weeks ago, says she encountered long queues at the Rotunda while waiting for prenatal appointments: "There was an awful lot of queueing which was very uncomfortable. There were very nearly due women sitting for hours and there could be 60 people waiting for an appointment at one time."

However, the Ms Treanor from the Rotunda hospital said the "snow baby" theory is probably not a factor in the current explosion of births.

"In the past five years we have had a sustained increase in births and are now delivering 35pc more babies than five years ago so the "snow baby" theory is probably is not a factor."