Maternity hospitals stretched to full capacity


Maternity hospitals around the Czech Republic are bursting at the seams. The annual birth rate in the Czech Republic has been slowly increasing over the last five years, but recent weeks have seen an unusually high number of births.

The number of babies born in the first six months of 2005 has increased by roughly ten percent compared to the same period last year. Staff at maternity hospitals say they are exhausted and are running short of necessary supplies. Professor Zdenek Hajek from Prague's maternity hospital U Apolinare says they are almost at full capacity.

"We have to find emergency beds in other departments of our clinic if our neonatal ward is full. And if those beds were not enough we would have to ask other maternity hospitals in Prague to admit the mothers from us."

In the long term, the Czech Republic's fertility rate has been described as one of the lowest in the world and various socio-economic factors have been blamed for it. Demographers have even warned that if the trend continued, in 300 years there would be only 60,000 Czechs left. The current increase in the number of births is likely to slightly improve the grim statistics. Professor Zdenek Hajek has an explanation for the trend.

"It is a repercussion of the baby-boom in the 1970s. Czech women no longer have their first child at 20 but much later, in line with the trends in the developed countries of Western Europe. So many of the baby-boomers who were born in 1974 and 1975 are just now having their first babies."

Currently Czech women have their first child at the average age of 26.3 years. In Prague the average age is 28 years.