The number of perinatal deaths at University Hospital Galway fell by 38 per cent in 2011, according to a new Women’s and Children’s Directorate report published by the hospital.
The annual report shows that there were 18 perinatal deaths in the Maternity Unit at UHG in 2011, down from 28 in 2010. Six of these occurred secondary to congenital anomaly, three due to prematurity, one to haemorrage, one to pre-eclampsia, three to extreme prematurity and seven to unknown causes.
The trend is continued across all areas of perinatal pathology, with perinatal deaths down by 45 per cent since 2002, stillbirths down by 53 per cent and early neonatal deaths down by 20 per cent. The current perinatal mortality rate stands at five per 1,000, a figure that has been halved in the past ten years.
In a statement on the report, Prof John J Morrison, Ms Marie Hession and Ms Siobhan Canny said it was “difficult to speculate” as to the reduction in perinatal mortality rate over the last decade, and “whether or not the increasing caesarian section rate is linked to such benefit is a controversial topic”.
However, they called for an “appropriate midwifery led unit for low risk pregnancies” to be established at the hospital, considering that GUH deals with such a large proportion of high-risk cases.
“This would provide the opportunity for women to receive midwifery-led care, in a low risk unit, alongside the main delivery suite, so that options for choice and a good safety level of standards could be maintained. This is a work in progress and will require multi-disciplinary input in the future.”
There were 3,429 births at the city centre Maternity Unit in 2011, a slight increase on 2010’s figure of 3,361. The report shows a steady increase in the number of births to older mothers, with 6.3 per cent of deliveries involving women aged 40 years or older.
Conversely, the number of births to teenagers fell from 2.9 per cent in 2002 to 1.3 per cent in 2011. Almost 24 per cent of births were to non-national woman, a figure that has doubled since 2002 but remained constant over the past five years.
The Economic and Social Research Institute has also released its annual perinatal statistics report, showing a decline in birth numbers nationally.
There were 74,377 births in 2011 compared to 75,600 in 2010, representing a reduction of 1.6 per cent on the previous year and 2.2 per cent since the peak in 2009. At 16.2 per 1,000 population, Ireland again reported the highest birth rate of any of the 27 EU countries. The second highest was the UK, with 12.9 per 1,000 population.
Nationally, breastfeeding is becoming more popular, with almost 47 per cent of all babies being exclusively breastfed in 2011, up from 46 per cent in 2010 and 41 per cent in 2002. There was an even higher uptake at University Hospital Galway, with figures showing that almost 58 per cent of mothers were breastfeeding on discharge from hospital.