Fewer than one in five births in 2006 were to mothers from outside State


FEWER THAN one in five births in 2006 were to mothers from outside the Republic, the latest perinatal statistics report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has shown.

The greatest proportion of the women from outside Ireland were from Africa and eastern Europe, the analysis of mothers giving birth here found.

The report indicated that the breast-feeding rate for 2006 was 44 per cent, with the highest rate seen among mothers of Asian origin, followed by African mothers.

The statistics also show a large fall in the number of home births between 2002 and 2006.

Domiciliary midwives attended just 170 home births in 2006, compared with almost 300 in 2002.

There was also a substantial drop in the number of postmortem examinations performed on babies who died in the early neonatal period, the comprehensive ESRI study showed.

While Caesarean section rates stabilised in 2006, they still accounted for a quarter of all births

"In 2006, 24.3 per cent of singleton births were delivered by Caesarean section, while the comparable rate for 2002 was 21.5 per cent," the authors of the report wrote.

"The percentage of multiple births delivered by Caesarean section in 2006 was 50.8 per cent, which is over 10 percentage points higher than that reported in 2002," the report added.

The average length of stay for both mother and infants continued to decline in 2006, a reduction that has been noted over some years.

An infant's length of stay decreased from an average of 3.9 days in 2002 to 3.7 days in 2006. A mother's average total length of stay fell from 4.1 days in 2002 to 3.7 days in 2006.

According to Dr Sheelagh Bonham of the ESRI's health and information division, the report found the average age of all mothers was 31 years.

Single mothers were younger, with an average of 27 years and they accounted for 32 per cent of all women giving birth.

The perinatal mortality rate, regarded as a sensitive indicator of a nation's health status, was seven per 1,000 live and still births.

This has dropped from a rate of 8.4 in 2002.

The number of stillbirths to mothers in the Republic also dropped from a rate of 5.6 per 1,000 to 4.7 over the same period.

The report analysed Ireland's standing compared to the other countries in the EU in relation to perinatal mortality.

This ranking indicated that among the 22 countries for which 2006 data was available, the highest perinatal mortality rate was recorded in France, which had a rate of 11.2 per 1,000 live births and still births.

The country with the lowest perinatal mortality rate was Luxembourg at 3.3 per 1,000 live births and still births.

Ireland was found to have a comparatively high perinatal mortality rate. It was ranked 15th out of the 22 countries included in the study.