Your bump in the night
Could it be true that the time of day you give birth influences the delivery?

In a study of more than 700,000 births at all Dutch hospitals between 2000 and 2006, researchers found that the risks of newborn death and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit were higher with nighttime than daytime deliveries.

Overall, the new study found, infants at smaller community hospitals who were born in the evening (between 6 p.m. and midnight) or overnight into early morning (between midnight and 8 a.m.) were 32% to 47% more likely to die than those born during the day.

At larger medical centers, only overnight births - as opposed to evening births - were linked to an increased risk of newborn death.

But they stress that, in developed countries, serious complications are rare no matter what time of day or night a woman delivers.

Of the nearly 656,000 singleton births at community hospitals, between 0.05 and 0.09% of infants died during or soon after birth. Rates were higher among infants born at tertiary hospitals, but were still less than 1%.

It's possible, Steegers said, that the increased risks reflect the fact that fewer senior staff members - including obstetricians, neonatologists and anesthesiologists - are available during night shifts.

Supporting that idea, the researchers found fewer infant deaths and complications at community hospitals when senior staff were present. At night, when such staff are at home on call, less experienced doctors may be making the initial decisions on how to manage high-risk situations.

It's also possible that staff fatigue is a factor, since night-shift work is at odds with the body's natural rhythms. But unfortunately, naps don't seem to do the trick: It may take up to half an hour for sleepy minds to get back up to speed after a slumber, the researchers note.

Even if organizational factors at hospitals do explain the higher nighttime risks, Steegers said, it is not clear whether revamping the system would eliminate those risks.

Do you think that the time of day can really play an important factor in your newborn's health?

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