Babies seem inconvenient. Sure, the production of a new child, born full of innocence and hope and potential and all that jazz, is perhaps wonderful, but they sure do take a toll on the half of the population that has to essentially manufacture them for nine long, arduous months.
Now, as revealed by a new PLOS One study, babies are most likely to be born – at least in England – at 4am, with most arriving between 1am and 7am. That seems unnecessarily troublesome, but the researchers hypothesize that this may be part of our evolutionary heritage.
“Our ancestors lived in groups that were active and dispersed during the day and came together to rest at night,” lead author Dr Peter Martin, a lecturer in applied statistics at UCL, said in a statement. “So a night-time labor and birth probably afforded the mother and newborn baby some protection.”
Although this data strictly applies to England, the team note that long-term research indicates that this nighttime-birth trend probably isn’t isolated to this part of the world.
The research endeavor – led by City University of London and UCL – looked at the records associated with around 5 million single baby births that occurred in maternity units run by the UK’s National Health Service in England between 2005 and 2014.
The objective was to spot trends, if any, linking birth patterns to the onset of labor and the mode of giving birth. After all, although the basic biology of pregnancies hasn’t changed, society and medical science have, and manually-induced births and C-sections have become more common since the 1950s.
Indeed, the rising rates of pre-planned C-section births have meant that births have increasingly been concentrated onto the mornings of weekdays.
Curiously, the authors note that the increasing rates of induced births in the 1970s were designed to ensure more births happened during daytime hours, but their data shows that induced births have peaked at night, regardless of which induction method is used. Such induced births are also more likely to happen on Tuesdays to Saturdays, and on days before a public holiday period.
For all births, just over a quarter take place between 9am and 5pm on weekdays. A whopping 71.5 percent of births take place outside regular working hours.
BBC News elucidate further with an excellent graphic, illustrating that labor may start one way, but the birth can take place very differently to how it was expected or intended.
Of women giving birth to single babies between 2005 and 2014, 66 percent experienced “spontaneous labor”, but only 50 percent of these ended in a spontaneous birth. Around 7 percent of these spontaneous labors required emergency C-sections, and 9 percent needed artificial assistance, such as using forceps.
The team note that, overall, “the timing of birth by time of day and day of the week varies considerably by onset of labor and mode of birth,” even if the processes influencing these patterns aren’t known in massive detail at present. This has important implications for maternity care, which has to be available 24/7; perhaps, using this data, resources could be put to more efficient use.