Irish post birth care praised
Ireland has among the best rates of survival for premature babies in the world, the head of the HSE’s programme for new born babies has said.
Paediatrician Dr John Murphy said some 83 per cent of babies born under 1.5 kgs (three pounds, five ounces) survive in Ireland.
The international average is between 84 per cent and 90 per cent with the best rates in the world being in the Scandinavian countries.
Dr Murphy said the slightly higher rates in Ireland had to be seen in the context that the absence of abortion means that many malformed babies who may have been aborted in other countries that would be born in Ireland.
Ireland has one of the lowest prematurity rates in the world with an average of six per 100 babies born before 37 weeks. The average in the United States is 12 per 100.
“Good ante-natal care is very important and is a factor that seem to make the difference in terms of prematurity rates,” he said.
In relation to the case of Savita Halappanavar, Dr Murphy said he was not an obstetrician but the high survival rates for the most vulnerable babies showed that Ireland was internationally respected as a safe country in which to have a child.
Dr Murphy, the clinical lead of the HSE neonatology (new borns) programme, said the higher rates of prematurity in the United States may be the result of poor antenatal care for women who cannot afford proper monitoring of the foetus.
A national model of care for neonatology is being developed in Ireland. “The aspiration is to eradicate post code disadvantage and to avoid fragmentation and duplication of services,” he said.
Speaking in advance of International Prematurity Day tomorrow, Dr Murphy said Ireland’s neonatology (post birth) programme had been “hugely successful” with the numbers of babies that are stillborn or who die soon after birth going from 60 per 1,000 in the 1960s to 5.3 per 1,000 today.
In the past two decades the outer limits of viability for babies has declined from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. Approximately half the babies born at 24 weeks survive.
Ireland has been able to benchmark maternal standards against other countries through the Vermont-Oxford collaborative programme which compares survival rates in premature babies across the developed world.
A global survey carried out by healthcare company Abbott and MedImmune found that half of all Irish mothers worried about their child’s long-term health complications (50 per cent), intellectual development (47 per cent) and susceptibility to disease (87 per cent).
Dr Murphy said children born at more than 30 weeks are more than likely to be healthy in later week, but under that the risk of having a brain issue and some degree of handicap increases.