Ireland still has the highest birth rate in the European Union, according to a new ESRI report.

The Perinatal Statistics Report, based on 2010 figures, shows that there were over 17,000 more births in the country compared to 2001.

Ireland is also close to the level required for the long-term replacement of the population in the absence of any net inward migration, according to the report.

By 2010, there was a 2% decline in the mortality rate of live births and still births, compared to 2001.

The number of babies delivered by caesarean section rose 5% in the decade, while the number of breastfed babies increased by 7%.

The average age of women giving birth was just over 31 by 2010, while there was a 22% increase in those aged 35 and older having babies.

A third of births in 2010 were to single mothers and almost a quarter were to mothers born outside Ireland.

The report focuses on the social and biological characteristics of all mothers that gave birth in Ireland in 2010, as well as pregnancy outcomes.

Elsewhere, the Government has approved the drafting of new legislation that will require the inclusion of the name of the father on birth certificates for non-marital births.

The new rule follows a recommendation from the Law Reform Commission.