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Home births down 25% since 2003

The number of home births across Ireland has dropped by a quarter over the last decade.

A total of 71,986 births were registered last year, with Ireland still having the highest rate across Europe with 15.6 births per 1,000 people.

Among the babies registered, 176 were born at home in 2012 - down by 25% from 236 in 2003.

New figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) also revealed that almost half of all babies born last year were breastfed.

While the figure (47%) remained unchanged from 2011, it was up from 41% in 2003.

According to the data, from the think-tank's Perinatal Statistics Report 2012, foreign-born women were almost twice as likely to breastfeed their babies than Irish women.

The breastfeeding rate was estimated at 40% among babies born to Irish mothers, and 75% among those born to women from Europe and America.

The ESRI report found that while Ireland boasts the highest birth rate across the 27 European Union states, the number of babies born in 2012 had dropped by 3.2% from the year before.

There was also a reduction in the number of deaths among newborn babies - in both still births and live births.

It dropped slightly by 3% from 2011 and by a more dramatic 31% from 2003.

Meanwhile, the average age of women giving birth in 2012 was 31.9 years.

Just 2% of women giving birth were aged under 20 years, while 30% were over 35.

Just over a third of births were to single mothers.

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