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Birth rate falls, but Irish women remain Europe's most fertile

The average Irish woman will have 2.06 children in her childbearing years – more than anyone else in the European Union.

IRELAND’S BIRTH RATE fell in 2010 for the first time in five years – but Irish women are still more fertile than those of any other EU member state.

Comprehensive figures on births and deaths published this morning by the Central Statistics Office show that 75,174 children were born in Ireland in 2010 – the first time since 2005 that the number was down based on the previous year.

However, the total number of births is still the second-highest figure recorded since the turn of the 20th century – with only 2009′s figure of 75,554 being any higher. Preliminary figures for 2011 show that the number fell further last year, to 74,650, but these have not been finalised.
51.7 per cent of children born in Ireland in 2010 were male. Teenage mothers accounted for 2.7 per cent of all births – the lowest proportion, in relative terms, recorded since 1966.

The CSO’s figures show that the average Irish woman, based on current trends, will give birth to 2.06 children over the course of her child-bearing years – higher than the average of any other EU country.

France has the next-highest rate, at 2.03. No other member state has a rate above 2.0. Latvia has the EU’s lowest, at 1.17 births per mother. The CSO’s figures note that no EU country passes the 2.1 value which is generally considered to be the level at which a generation is self-replacing.

Average mother now 31.5 years old

The maintenance of Irish fertility rates comes despite an increase in the age of the average mother – which rose from 31.3 to 31.5 in 2010. The average age in Northern Ireland in the same period was 29.9 years, and 29.6 in Britain.

Over a third of all children born in 2010 – 33.8 per cent – were born to unmarried parents, an increase of 0.4 per cent from 2009 and a new national record.

There were 1,243 sets of twins and 23 sets of triplets born in 2010. 326 babies were delivered at home, an increase of 50 per cent from 2009 (217).

Ireland’s death rate fell in 2010, with 27,961 people dying in that year – equivalent to a rate of 6.1 per 1,000 people, down from 6.3 in 2009. Diseases of the circulatory system were the leading cause of death, accounting for 34.3 per cent of all deaths.

Suicide was returned as the cause of death in 495 cases in 2010, down by 57 on the figures from 2009. Males accounted for 82 per cent of suicide victims.

The number of stillbirths recorded in 2010 was down from 294 to 273; the figures mean that of each 1,000 children delivered in Ireland last year, 3.6 were stillborn.

The figures also show that only one person died from complications of pregnancy, childbirth or puerperium (the period shortly after childbirth) in 2010: a Dublin woman aged between 25 and 34 at the time of her death.

Read: New campaign encourages pregnant women to wear seat belts

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