What's the Worst Time of Day to Have a Baby?

Filed under: News, In The News, Weird But True, Delivery, Research Reveals: Babies, New In Pop Culture

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Are babies born at night at greater risk of dying? Credit: Sam Yeh, AFP/Getty Images


It's not as if an expectant mother can control when her baby is born, but the time of day a woman gives birth can actually influence her chances of a smooth delivery, according to Dutch researchers.

Specifically, babies who are born at night in hospitals have a higher risk of dying than babies who are born during the day.

Led by Dr. Eric Steegers, the team from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam tracked more than 700,000 births at hospitals in the Netherlands from 2000 to 2006 and found that newborns who were born at night were more likely to die or be admitted to neonatal intensive care than babies born during the day.

And the risk isn't small. Infants who were born either in the evening (between 6 p.m. and midnight) or overnight into early morning (between midnight and 8 a.m.) were 32 percent to 47 percent more likely to die than those who were born during the day.

Reality check: In terms of real numbers, however, this is still less than 1 percent of all babies born, largely because serious complications are rare in developed countries -- no matter what time of day or night a baby is born.

Why is there an increased risk at night? The researchers point to hospital staffing. Fewer senior staff are on duty overnight, including obstetricians, neonatologists and anesthesiologists. In fact, they found there were fewer infant deaths and complications at even the smallest community hospitals when experienced doctors made the initial decisions on how to manage high-risk situations. Another factor could be staff fatigue; after all, those who work the night shift are battling their body's natural rhythms.

The study findings were published in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG.

Related: Is the Recession a Great Form of Birth Control?

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