Multiple pregnancies on the rise

EU report highlights health and care of pregnant women and babies in European countries

Mothers aged under 20 account for 5% of all Maltese births, equal to that of the United Kingdom, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakian and Romania.

Malta placed above the majority of other EU countries, which have a rate of 2% according to the European Perinatal Health Report. The report showed that fetal, neonatal, and infant mortality rates across the whole EU declined by around 20%.

With a local neonatal mortality rate of 4.5 per 1000, Malta is one of countries with the highest rate, surpassed only by Romania at 5.5. The average rate across the EU ranges from 1.2 to 5.5.

On the other hand the Maltese infant mortality rate is 5.5, while in the rest of Europe this ranges from 2.3 to 9.8 per 1000 births.

Multiple pregnancies rates also soared, with the rate in Malta standing at 20 per 1000 equal to that of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Cyprus and Spain.

Women in Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland have experienced a much lower rate of multiple pregnancies ranging from from 9 to 13 per 1000 women.

The report points at the use of assisted reproductive techniques without clear practice guidelines as the reason behind the substantial increase in the number of multiple pregnancies and twin births.

Until recently, IVF was carried out in Malta without any legal framework or guidelines since 1991.

In November 2012, two years after the report's data collection, parliament approved the much debated and highly controversial IVF bill, the Embryo Protection Act.

With an IVF clinic built at Mater Dei Hospital back in 2007, the clinic only became operational on 1 January this year, the same day as the Embryo protection Act came into force.

Published by the EURO-PERISTAT project, the new report brings together data from 26 European Union member states, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland on the health and care of pregnant women and babies in Europe.

The first EURO-PERISTAT report published in 2008 showed the data gathered since 2004, while this year's study contains data collected in 2010.

The report highlighted wide differences between thecountries of Europe and provides information about alternative ways of providing care and raises questions about national healthcare policies.

It also contains data from the Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe (SCPE) and European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT) projects.

The report concluded that European countries face common challenges related to the health and care of mothers and babies and the sharing of the collated information with health planners, clinicians, researchers and users, actions based on actual facts and figures can lead to an improved maternal and child health sector.