Growing Up in Ireland has launched a new report on Maternal Health and with it come some surprising and some not-so-surprising findings. The study follows the development of almost 20,000 children and their parents, teachers and carers, giving us some really great insights into parenting in Ireland.
Here’s what the latest report tells us about mums in Ireland – does this match with your experience of pregnancy and motherhood?
Smoking during pregnancy
The new Growing Up in Ireland study found that almost one in five mothers in Ireland smoked during pregnancy. While this may seem like a high numbers, it has decreased by 37% since the late 1990s.
While women from lower income households were significantly more likely to smoke, there were a number of other factors identified that could cause a soon-to-be mum to pick up a cigarette. Psychological stress, anxiety and depression made a woman more likely to smoke during pregnancy, as did a higher number of previous children and having a partner who smokes.
Drinking during pregnancy
Women aged 35-39 were 33% more likely to drink during pregnancy than women under 25, while women having their second or third child were over 25% more likely.
Higher income and class also impacted the likelihood of drinking during pregnancy. Interestingly, younger and less educated women tended to drink more in early pregnancy but their consumption fell quickly in the second or third trimesters, whereas drinking among more advantaged women tended to increase during the pregnancy.
Compared to UK studies, while women in Ireland were less likely to drink during pregnancy, when they did, they were likely to drink more heavily.
Ireland has one of the lowest national levels of breastfeeding in the world, and Growing Up in Ireland date found that only 56% of mums in Ireland breastfed their child to some extent.
Women from the UK living in Ireland we more than twice as likely to breastfeed than Irish women, while those from European countries were at least six-times more likely.
Factors in weight and childhood obesity
One of the most interesting and also most worrying finding of this study was the serious effect smoking during pregnancy had on an infant’s weight.
Smoking in the first trimester was associated with a 235g reduction in birth-weight, while smoking 11+ cigarettes a day during the third trimester reduced birth weight by 311g on average.
Less breastfeeding and an earlier introduction of solid foods were both important determinants of rapid growth from birth to nine months. Rapid growth during infancy has been found to be an important risk factor for childhood and adult obesity.
Giving us another interesting insight in mums’ habits in Ireland, it was discovered that almost half of children were weaned onto solids by four months of age, while less than a third were weaned after six months, as per the World Health Organisation recommendation.