Irish women more likely to need Caesarean sections
Obesity and smoking linked to birth complications
The Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin, which surveyed 1,433 first-time mothers from Ireland and the EU for its study. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
Irish mothers are almost twice as likely to require emergency Caesarean sections as eastern European mothers giving birth here.
They are also more likely to be obese and to smoke, a study from University College Dublin and the Economic and Social Research Institute finds.
The study, published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was conducted in the Coombe University Hospital between 2008 and 2011.
It surveyed 1,433 first-time mothers from Ireland and the EU. The women were divided into three groups – those born in Ireland, those from the 14 EU States pre-enlargement and those from the 12 post-enlargement States.
Some 19.8 per cent of the Irish-born women ultimately required an emergency Caesarean, while just 12.5 per cent of the women from the EU12 group did. Some 42.5 per cent of the Irish mothers had an induced labour, compared with 31 per cent of the EU12 women. The obesity rate among the Irish-born cohort was 19.5 per cent compared with 9.5 per cent among the eastern European group.
Prof Michael Turner, consultant obstetrician at the Coombe and co-author of the study, said the higher rate of Caesarean section among Irish women was strongly related to the higher obesity rates. He said one in six of the women booking for ante-natal care at the Coombe had a body mass index greater than 29.
“Studies show that if obese, the mother is twice as likely to need a section. She is more likely to develop gestational diabetes, which has serious implications for the mother and baby. The baby is more likely to be fat [and so more difficult to deliver vaginally] and the mother is seven times more likely to develop diabetes later in life.” He said sections were more difficult, took longer to recover from and there were higher cost implications associated both with the procedure and also the longer hospital stay after birth.
Asked why eastern European women were less likely to be obese to need either sections or induced births, he said: “We have to speculate that it is because the eastern European women were more physically active before they got pregnant and that the quality of their diet is better – that they have been, and are, eating less processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods. The other reason is that Irish women are more likely to be smokers.”
While factors such as age and ethnicity could not be addressed, life-style issues such as diet and smoking could, he said. “The major message has to be that women are strongly urged to stop smoking and improve their diets before pregnancy if possible.”