New figures from a 2009 survey show that Ireland is for lovers.

The country now has has the highest birth rate in Europe.

The results, published by the Economic and Social Research Institute, record a birth rate of 17 per thousand of population.

The 2009 rate is up from 14.4 per thousand of population in 2000.

Ireland’s birth rate is the highest recorded by any of the 27 members of the European Union in 2009.

The Irish Times reports that the Irish fertility rate achieves the level required for the population to replace itself in the absence of any net inward migration.

Britain and France were next to Ireland in the Perinatal Statistics Report with a birth rate of 12.8 per 1,000 population. Germany had the lowest birth rate, at 8.1 per 1,000.

Some 76,021 births were reported to the National Perinatal Reporting System in 2009, an increase of 434 on the previous year.

The perinatal mortality rate was 6.9 per 1,000 live births and stillbirths.



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The paper reports that the average age of women giving birth in 2009 was 31.3 years, up from 30.2 years in 2000 while more than 27 per cent of women giving birth were aged 35 or older.

Only 3 per cent of births recorded in Ireland were to mothers who were aged 19 or under with 42 per cent giving birth for the first time, with an average age of 29.1 years for first-time mothers. Of all first deliveries, 31 per cent were to women aged between 30 and 34.

Almost 24 per cent of births in 2009 were to mothers who had been born outside of Ireland.

The report records a 25 per cent increase in deliveries by Caesarean section in the past decade. More than 26 per cent of women had a Caesarean section in 2009, compared with 21 per cent in 2000.

National director of obstetrics and gynaecology with the Health Service Executive Prof Michael Turner told the Times: “A continuing increase in the Caesarean section rate, together with an increase in the number of multiple births, is indicative of increasing complexity.

“Serious challenges will therefore arise as we aim to ensure a successful outcome of pregnancy for both the mother and her offspring in the face of the decreasing healthcare budget.”

The Perinatal Statistics Report records that the twinning rate for 2009 was 15.9 per 1,000 pregnancies, comprising 1,186 sets of twins, 13 sets of triplets and a set of quadruplets.

The average weight of babies born in 2009 was 7lbs 10oz. Low birth weight babies - those weighing less than 5lbs 8oz - accounted for 5 per cent of all births in 2009, which is unchanged since 2000.