Rising c-section rates among first-time mothers in Ireland strongly linked to age 3 months ago

Rising c-section rates among first-time mothers in Ireland strongly linked to age

Irish first-time mums are among the oldest in Europe.

And according to a brand new study, carried out at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, this is leading to more first-time mums than ever delivering via C-section.

In fact, the HSE’s newly published Perinatal Statistics Report has found the number of first-time mothers in Ireland over the age of 35 has nearly doubled in recent years. And in 2017, one in four or 25 percent of first births were to women aged 35 years or older compared to just 14 percent in 2008.

As well as this, the report from the Healthcare Pricing Office found that in 2017, just over three out of ten or 31 percent of single live births were delivered by caesarean section while 54 percent of women delivered vaginally.

Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction at the Coombe, Michael Turner, said there are a number of factors for the rising caesarean section rates in older mothers.

"There is no single explanation for the increase in caesarean section rates in older women especially over 35 years," Turner explains.

"One is that older women are more likely to have a history of pregnancy loss or to have had treatment for infertility. They may be risk-averse because fertility levels decrease with age and their opportunities for childbirth in the future are less.” 

Professor Turner, who is one of the authors of the study along with Dr Aoife Brick, added that older women do not labour as efficiently because the uterine muscles are not as powerful.

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“This is not surprising because all our muscle power decreases as we age”, he explained.

The study found increasing caesarean section rates in first-time mothers were found to be strongly associated with the trend for women waiting until later in life to start a family.

“(This) is important because of the evidence that Irish women are choosing to defer having their first baby until later in life."

Professor Turner said first time mothers are more likely to have an emergency caesarean section while women with two or more pregnancies are more likely to have an elective caesarean section which is usually a repeat caesarean section.

The new study - Does maternal obesity explain trends in caesarean section rates? - has just been published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science.

The study found that although the prevalence of being overweight or obese changed little over the period, the odds of having a caesarean section if a woman is obese have increased for women with two or more pregnancies.

The researchers said in their study that almost one in five women delivered in 2017 in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital was obese at her first antenatal visit, and the number of women with obesity, including women who are morbidly obese, has been shown to be increasing over time.