Ireland's birth rate is the highest in Europe


IRELAND HAS the highest birth rate in Europe, according to the latest statistics from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The birth rate of 17 per 1,000 of population, up from 14.4 per 1,000 in 2000, was the highest of any of the 27 countries of the European Union in 2009, according to the Perinatal Statistics Report 2009 published yesterday.

The Irish fertility rate achieves the level required for the population to replace itself in the absence of any net inward migration.

After Ireland, the highest rates were in Britain and France at 12.8 per 1,000 population. Germany had the lowest birth rate, at 8.1 per 1,000.

Some 76,021 births were notified to the National Perinatal Reporting System in 2009, an increase of 434 on the previous year.

The perinatal mortality rate was 6.9 per 1,000 live births and stillbirths.

The average age of women giving birth in 2009 was 31.3 years, up from 30.2 years in 2000. More than 27 per cent of women giving birth were aged 35 or older. Only 3 per cent of births were to mothers who were aged 19 or under.

Of all the women giving birth in 2009, 42 per cent were doing so for the first time, with an average age of 29.1 years for first-time mothers. Of all first deliveries, 31 per cent were to women aged between 30 and 34.

Almost 24 per cent of births in 2009 were to mothers who had been born outside of Ireland.

There has been a 25 per cent increase in deliveries by Caesarean section in the past decade. More than 26 per cent of women had a Caesarean section in 2009, compared with 21 per cent in 2000.

Prof Michael Turner, national director of obstetrics and gynaecology with the Health Service Executive, said: “A continuing increase in the Caesarean section rate, together with an increase in the number of multiple births, is indicative of increasing complexity.

“Serious challenges will therefore arise as we aim to ensure a successful outcome of pregnancy for both the mother and her offspring in the face of the decreasing healthcare budget.”

The twinning rate for 2009 was 15.9 per 1,000 pregnancies, comprising 1,186 sets of twins, 13 sets of triplets and a set of quadruplets.

The average weight of babies born in 2009 was 7lbs 10oz. Low birth weight babies – those weighing less than 5lbs 8oz – accounted for 5 per cent of all births in 2009, which is unchanged since 2000.