Conference brings together leading thinkers in the field of maternal health
A conference taking place at the ESRI on Tuesday 25th October will bring together leading researchers and practitioners in the field of maternal health to discuss the increasing use of caesarean section in Ireland and the associated risks for mothers and infants. The conference will discuss recently published and ongoing research from a collaboration between researchers from the ESRI, the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin and the UCD Centre of Human Reproduction at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital.
The proportion of births delivered by caesarean section (CS) is increasing across OECD countries and Ireland is no exception. Here the proportion of births by CS has increased from 7% in 1984 to 13% in 1993 and 30% by 2014 (the latest year available). The option of using CS is a major reason why deaths among mothers and children in childbirth are a fraction of what they were in the past. Still, there are now concerns that the benefits of CS may be outweighed by the increased clinical risks and economic costs that it carries.
Joint research between the ESRI, TCD and UCD has investigated the factors driving the increasing use of CS using data on births recorded in the 19 Irish maternity units over the last 17 years. By focusing on variation in the use of CS across units, the researchers sought to understand what clinical and sociodemographic factors are driving the CS trend and thus contribute to the development of safe and cost-effective services for mothers and babies.
The primary reason why use of CS has increased over time is that medical advances have made the operation much safer for the mother but the research also shows that factors like the increasing average age of mothers, particularly first time mothers and the clinical risks that this brings are crucial. The research also shows that maternity units still vary in the use of CS after the characteristics of mothers have been accounted for.
Research findings from the joint research initiative:
Prof Michael Turner (UCD Centre for Human Reproduction) commented that:
“Although many of the obstetric trends in Ireland are challenging, Irish maternity units continue to deliver results which are among the best in the world. If we wish to maintain this record we will need to invest to take account of adverse trends whilst constantly striving to coordinate and improve practice in Irish maternity services.”
Prof. Richard Layte, (ESRI and Department of Sociology, TCD), added:
“For the first time, this conference provides a platform for multi-disciplinary experts in this field to share their expertise in relation to the most recent findings, with the objective of facilitating dialogue that advances and supports evidence-based policy in healthcare.
The ESRI works towards a national vision of ‘Informed policy for a better Ireland’. This means producing high-quality analysis to provide robust evidence for policymaking, with the goals of research excellence and policy impact.
The ESRI produces research that contributes to understanding economic and social change in the new international context and that informs public policymaking and civil society in Ireland.