Fewer children being born in Flanders

The annual report of the Study Centre for Perinatal Epidemiology (SPE) reveals that the number of children born in Flanders fell in 2017. Flemish mothers are also giving birth to their first child later than they did in the past. Despite the fall in the general birth rate more children in our region are being born with Down syndrome.    

The annual report is based on statistics from 63 maternity wards in the 5 Flemish provinces and the maternity ward of the UZ Brussel hospital in the Brussels municipality of Jette. In 2016 there was a slight rise in the birth rate. However, this was not true of 2017 and the birth rate fell. During last year 63,838 children were born on Flemish maternity wards.     

Mother getting older

In 2017, the average age at which a mother had her first child was 29. In 1987 this was 25.7 years of age. 2.9% of mothers were over 40 when they gave birth, up from 0.8% in 1991. 17.4% of women giving birth were 35 or older.   

Fewer teenage pregnancies

The number of teenage pregnancy is also down. Last year just 742 new mothers were under the age of 20. 179 were younger than 18.    

More artificial insemination

The percentage of children born thanks to “medically assisted fertilisation” rose to 7.5% in 2017. This means that 1 in 13 women became pregnant in this way. This is a big increase compared with the 1 in 20 such births in 2007 and 1 in 29 in 1997.

A worrying phenomenon

The Chairman of the Flemish Association of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Johan Van Wiemeersch pointed to what he described as a “worrying trend” in an interview  with VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’. 

“For the first time fewer first-born children have been born and this could create problems in the future as women that have a first child often later have a second and sometimes a third child. If this trend is confirmed the birth rate will drop even more sharply than is already the case”. 

Down syndrome

Meanwhile, the daily ‘De Standaard’ has calculated the number of children being born with Down syndrome in our region rose from 31 in 2016 to 42 in 2017.

This is despite the fall in the general birth rate and the fact that the “Nip Test” that is used to detect Down syndrome in unborn babies became almost free-of-charge last year.