**Photo Credit- Janelle Melnyk Photography**

An article popped up on the Hartford Courant’s website that caught my eye today.  A recent Yale University study found that there is a noticable decrease in births on Halloween, and a noticable increase in births on Valentine’s Day.  I found this to be particularly interesting because Jake was born on Valentine’s Day!  At exactly 12:00 in the morning!  My water broke at 5:00 in the morning the day before, and all day my husband and I mused, what if he decided to wait until Valentine’s Day??  It’s always been by absolute favorite holiday growing up, and i thought it would be so fun if he was born on that date.  And lo and behold, Jake obliged!  I wonder if there is something to the power of suggestion…


Pregnant Women Spooked by Halloween

Yale Study Says Fewer Babies Born Oct. 31; Births Spike On Valentine’s Day

BY WILLIAM WEIR, bweir@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

7:04 AM EDT, October 25, 2011


Halloween is a good day for a lot of things — spooky decorations, watching scary movies — but for many expectant mothers, giving birth apparently isn’t one of them.

A study by Yale researchers found a marked decrease in births — both Cesarean sections and spontaneous births — on Halloween. Conversely, births increased on Valentine’s Day.

“Our findings raise the possibility that pregnant women may be able to control the timing of spontaneous births, in contrast to traditional assumption,” the researchers write.

There are plenty of theories about how stress and other psychological factors might affect pregnancies, but this study, published in the October issue of Social Science & Medicine,  takes the unusual angle of exporing their effect on delivery times.

The study was led by Becca R. Levy, associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale’s School of Public Health, who said she long has been in interested in the physiological effects of belief. After some anecdotal reports from mothers about their birthing experiences, Levy said, “I thought it might be kind of fun to look into birth timing.”

So Levy and her research team looked at the results of 1.7 million births from a two-week period in February 2006 and 1.8 million births from a two-week period in October, also in 2006. What they found was that there was a 12.1 percent increase in Cesarean-section births on Valentine’s Day and a 16.9 percent decrease in C-section births on Halloween.

What really caught Levy’s eye, though, were the changes in spontaneous births: The data showed a 3.6 percent increase in births on Valentine’s Day and a 5.3 percent decrease on Halloween.

“Those are the ones that are really interesting,” she said. “How that would actually happen, we don’t know. One possible explanation is that there are studies that show that there are different kinds of psychological factors, which could have a role on hormones.”

The two holidays were chosen, Levy said, because the associations of love with Valentine’s Day and the sinister symbolism of Halloween are widely known and shared among cultures.

“We also wanted to pick holidays where we wouldn’t likely see a change in hospital staffing that day,” she said.

As for how to use this information practically, Levy said it might help shape hospital staffing policies. Also, health care workers should be aware of the possibility that cultural beliefs could influence pregnancy.

“I think health care professionals are very aware of those cultural factors, but I think some are still learning about them,” she said.

Dr. Joseph Walsh, who works in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said his patients often have strong preferences for when their baby is delivered.

“They definitely want to have it on some days and definitely not other days,” said Walsh, who was not part of the study.

Even with spontaneous births, he said, doctors and patients have some control over when a baby is delivered. If a woman comes in to the hospital after going into labor, but doesn’t want to deliver her baby until the next day, Walsh said a doctor can slow things down. But he doesn’t discount the role of mind over matter.

“Could there be other things going on?” he said. “Could patients will themselves to go into labor on certain holidays? It’s possible.”

Copyright © 2011, The Hartford Courant

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