New mums older, more educated

Four in 10 mums are university-educated, obstetric data shows, changing demographic of Maltese motherhood

Maltese mums are not getting ‘younger’, as national obstetric data for 2018 confirms yet again a consistent trend of women giving birth after the age of 30. And more women giving birth tend to have completed tertiary education.

The majority of some 4,400 deliveries (36.8%) in 2018 were in the maternal age-group of 30-34 years, with a steady significant decrease in the proportion of mothers younger than 30, and a shift towards older maternal age.

The department for health information said this was of public health importance due to the association between older maternal age and adverse outcomes during pregnancy and delivery.

There were a total of 4,516 births in Malta in 2018, an increase of 118 over 2017. Just 76 were twin deliveries, and three deliveries were triplets. Most of the mothers were primiparas (51.4%) and 66.8% of all mothers were reported as married.

Of all births, 158 mothers utilised assisted reproduction technology, of which 51% were through in vitro fertilisation or sperm injection.

A steady increase in the proportion of non-Maltese mothers when compared to previous years was noted, with nearly a quarter of all mothers (24.5%) having a non-Maltese nationality. The majority of non-Maltese mothers were Europeans (15.5%), with Italians (2.1%) and British (1.9%) topping the list.

On the other hand, the majority of non-European mothers were from Syria (2.3%), Sub-Saharan Africa (1.5%), Libya (1.4%) and the Philippines (1.3%).

The proportion of mothers who had completed compulsory education up to primary (2.4%) or secondary (19.7%) levels of education was dwarfed by those who continued with postsecondary or vocational non-tertiary education (23.2%) and tertiary education (39.4%).

“This is notable as maternal education has been shown to affect outcomes on pregnancy and infant health, with higher educational levels associated with more favourable outcomes,” the department of health information said.

During 2018 there were 874 mothers (19.7%) who reported smoking one or more cigarettes during their pregnancy, while 43 reported drinking some alcohol. 21 were reported to be using illicit drugs at some point during their pregnancy. “The links between these maternal lifestyles and adverse perinatal outcomes have been well established and it is likely that these negative lifestyle choices are under-reported by the mothers,” the department said.

The majority of women (68.4%) delivered by normal or assisted vaginal delivery, while elective and emergency Caesarean Sections (CS) totalled 1,400 (31.6%) of all deliveries. Specifically, elective C-Sections were 17.1% of deliveries.

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