New Year's Eve Works Its Magic on America's Birth Rates

From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 31, 2000 -- Last New Year's Eve, it seems that more couples than usual dimmed the lights, popped open the bubbly, and threw caution -- not to mention birth control -- to the wind.

The result is a mini-baby boom nine months later.

Whether it was the economic prosperity of 1999 or fear that predictions of Y2K doom were correct is unclear. But what is clear from statistics and anecdotal reports from several hospitals around the country is that births are up and that this past September -- nine months into the year -- saw more babies brought into the world than usual.

But it's still too early to estimate what will happen this New Year's Eve, experts tell WebMD.

Still, there seems to be something about that magical night that makes us slightly more amorous, or maybe our inhibitions are lower because of all the alcohol consumed. Or perhaps starting a family tops our New Year's resolutions list.

Do more people get pregnant on New Year's than other days of the year?

It's possible, says Carl Haub, a demographer at Population Reference Bureau, a nongovernmental and nonprofit research organization in Washington.

"One of the things that happens is that births do vary by months," Haub explains. "Births do tend to rise in July, August, and September of every year," he says.

In addition, births tend to vary by season as well. When air conditioners were invented, summer pregnancies in the Southwest increased because people were no longer incapacitated by heat, Haub says.

Other factors play a role, too. For example, months that have more Mondays also have higher birth rates, he says. Why? Because many labors are induced right after the weekend -- on Mondays.

There also have been reports that blackouts and hurricanes -- where power was out and nature set the stage for romance -- have higher conception rates, he says.

"In general, we live in time of prosperity, but I am not convinced that there is a clear correlation between the stock market and our birth rate," says Frank A. Chervenak, MD, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York. "There are many factors affecting birth rate other than the economic situation," he says.

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For instance, in the Big Apple this past year, "There have been more deliveries in those communities that are predominately Chinese because 2000 is the year of the dragon, and it is thought to be lucky to have a child during this year," Chervenak says

Indeed, the year of the dragon is considered an extremely lucky year in Chinese tradition. Last year, Chinese New Year fell on Feb. 5, and Chervenak says he has seen a marked increase in birth among Chinese patients in September and October. This coming year will be the Year of Snake, and it falls on Jan. 24.

Miriam Zieman, MD, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University in Atlanta and director of family planning, puts it this way: "We do know that unintended pregnancies are related to alcohol use, so if you drink, you may be less inhibited and forget or forego protection."

Her advice? Be prepared this New Year's Eve. "Think ahead and bring protection."

As many as 70% of college students admit to having engaged in sexual activity primarily as a result of being under the influence of alcohol or having sex they wouldn't have had if they had been sober. Moreover, at least one out of five college students abandons safe sex practices when they're drunk, even if they do protect themselves when they're sober, according to Facts on Tap, a joint effort of the Children of Alcoholics Foundation and the American Council for Drug Education.

And although it's not the time of year one gives much thought to vitamins, women who are considering getting pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid at least a month in advance of conception to prevent some birth defects.

WebMD Health News
© 2000 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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