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Teen pregnancies fall as more women in 40s having babies

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The Coombe Hospital. Photo: Collins Photo Agency

The Coombe Hospital. Photo: Collins Photo Agency

The Coombe Hospital. Photo: Collins Photo Agency

The rise of the middle-aged mother - with a big increase in the number of women in their 40s having babies - is one of the major changes seen by one of Dublin's main maternity hospitals.

The study of childbirth in the Coombe Hospital over 60 years shows the proportion of women in their 40s having children has risen from 2.6pc to 6.4pc.

At the same time, teenage pregnancy is less common and now accounts for 2pc of births compared with 4.7pc in the 'Swinging Sixties' before easy access to contraception.

The snapshot of how trends have changed in the south city maternity hospital was carried out by a team of obstetricians led by junior registrar Dr Gillian Corbett, of UCD, and former Coombe Hospital masters Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, Dr Sean Daly, Dr Michael Turner and Dr Sharon Sheehan.

It shows that since the 1960s the hospitals have become busier, rising from 3,050 births a year to 8,362. Other changes include women having more twins and triplets.

At the same time, families have become smaller with fewer women having more than five children.

Pre-eclampsia, a condition which affects some pregnant women, usually during the second half of pregnancy or after their baby is delivered, has become stable.

More women are having their baby induced, up from 8.8pc in the 1960s to 32.1pc.

Deaths

The study, presented to the Irish Congress of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Perinatal Medicine, shows the perinatal mortality rate - the deaths of babies at or around the time of birth - has dramatically improved, from 48.5 to 5.4 per 1,000 live births.

Nationally, about one in three births in Ireland is now by either planned or emergency caesarean section.

The fear of being sued is seen as a major and significant influence on the decision to perform a caesarean section.

Meanwhile, the newest master of the Coombe Hospital is Professor Michael O'Connell, who has started a seven-year term this month.

"Our vision is to be a nationally and internationally recognised leader in healthcare for women, babies and their families and to be the first choice for women needing maternity, neonatal and gynaecology services," he said.