Women are having children later in Portugal


Women are having children later in Portugal. By 2015, mothers aged 35 or older accounted for almost 30% of the total, putting the country in the fifth position of the European Union in this variable, according to data from the European Perinatal Health Report, released today (November 26), and developed in the framework of the European Euro-Peristat project, coordinated by Inserm, anf of which the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP) is partner.

According to data from the report, which analyses maternal and neonatal health in 31 European countries (those in the EU plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway), there is a general trend towards having children later in the continent, with the exception of Germany, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden. In Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland, the percentage of late mothers increased between 2010 and 2015.


According to Henrique Barros, President of ISPUP and one of the authors of the report, "it is interesting to note that specially in the countries most affected by the economic and financial crisis women postponed maternity”. The researcher stresses that "policies are needed to support working mothers and fathers in order to encourage motherhood at younger ages. In addition, health services in countries with mothers at more advanced ages have to guarantee that the needs of these women are ensured during pregnancy".


The report, the fourth one drawn up by Euro-Peristat since 2004, analysed data on five million deliveries in 2015 and compared them with the 2010 figures, showing that Portugal is well positioned in indicators such as infant mortality and maternity in adolescence (before the age of 20). However, there are other indicators with not as positive results.


For example, there is an increasing number of underweight newborns (under 2500 grams) in the country, 8.9% in 2015, one of the highest proportions in EU countries, which is partly explained as a result of late motherhood, the presence of chronic disease and the increase in the number of multiple pregnancies (twins).


Regarding this indicator, Henrique Barros points out that "fewer preterm babies and more underweight babies suggest the occurrence of circumstances that hinder fetal nutrition".


The report also includes data from 19 countries on smoking during pregnancy, but there are no figures for Portugal. Smoking is a cause of low weight.


As for neonatal mortality rates (up to 28 days postpartum), it was found that, overall, the situation improved, with rates dropping about 10% compared to 2010. Portugal is well placed in this regard, but "there is still room for improvement considering that there are countries with lower neonatal mortality numbers". Furthermore, it is necessary to know how many babies die and under which circumstances, as well as to gather data from maternity hospitals and private hospitals, where about 15% of deliveries are made.


Regarding cesarean deliveries, the study showed that between 2010 and 2015 the situation improved in Portugal, but, according to the President of ISPUP, the numbers remain high.


The European Perinatal Health Report is available for consultation here.


Image: Pixabay/VaniaRaposo


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