The University Maternity Hospital Limerick
LIMERICK city’s teenage birth rate remains the highest in the country, but the percentage of babies born to mothers aged under 20 has dropped from 10.2% in 2001 to 3.2% in over a decade.
Commenting on recent figures released by the Central Statistics Office, a spokesperson for the HSE Mid-West said that for reasons of patient confidentiality, it would not be appropriate to disclose the small number in the under-15 age bracket.
The HSE said that the trend at University Maternity Hospital Limerick is consistent with that in most maternity units around the country and indeed in most OECD nations, with the average age of mothers giving birth increasing, which in itself presents its own challenges to maternity services.
Over the same period, the percentage of babies born to mothers aged under 20 in county Limerick decreased from 4.76% to 1.32%. Between 2001 and 2015, the average age of the mother (all births) in Ireland increased from 30.3 to 32.5; from 28.1 to 30.2 in Limerick city and from 31.1 to 32.8 in county Limerick.
According to the National Maternity Strategy (2016), “it is this trend towards an older population of women giving birth which has implications for maternity and neonatal services, including the capability of services to respond to complex pregnancies.”
The strategy noted the increasing maternal age across developed countries and the consequent “many obstetric and perinatal challenges including low birth weight, chromosomal abnormalities, placenta praevia and increased caesarean section rates.”
The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme welcomed the figures released by the CSO, which confirmed a further decline in the number of births to teenagers in 2015.
Since the establishment of the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme in 2001, the total number of births to teenagers has decreased from 3,087 to 1,187 in 2015, a decline of 62% over 14 years.
The highest percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership was in Limerick city at 55.7% - which has historically seen the highest rate in the country - and the lowest was in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown with 24%. Nationally, over a third of 23,990 births in 2015 were outside marriage.