The Chinese believe it’s good luck to have a child born in 2012. Babies born in the Year of the Dragon are thought to become healthy, wealthy and intelligent, so it’s no surprise that birth rates in China are expected to rise this year as parents-to-be hope for the best for their future offspring.
But the idea that there’s a “right” time to have a baby doesn’t stop at the year - just ask anyone who’s had a baby, is currently pregnant, or is thinking of trying to conceive, and they’ll probably have an opinion on which month of the year is the best to be giving birth.
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If you haven’t had a baby, or aren’t planning one any time soon, you’re probably thinking “what on earth..?” So here are some points to consider. If you get pregnant in March then you might get a pretty big present on Christmas Day; get pregnant around Christmas and you could be packing your hospital bag, not your holiday suitcase in the summer; while an autumn conception means you might be spending the whole festive season as the designated driver, making up reasons why you’re not drinking and can’t quite fit into your party dress.
Not only that, but studies have also shown your birth month can actually have an impact on your future health, success and happiness, with babies born in October and November living longer; those born over the winter having an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and babies born in August (at the end of the school year) being less academically successful than their September-born peers. Oh and another study by the Office for National Statistics showed that more pilots are born in March than any other month! So is there an optimum time of year to have a baby in the UK?
[Related story: Body changes in pregnancy no one told you about]Well, birth month studies have concluded that levels of vitamin D in pregnancy have an impact on the future health of the babies. As it’s triggered by sunlight, women who are pregnant in winter are exposed to lower levels and this has been shown to have an effect on babies born in spring in the northern hemisphere, with an increased chance of illnesses and disorders including MS, diabetes and eating disorders.
“Each birth month appears to have its pros and cons,” says Sue Jacob, midwife teacher at the Royal College of Midwives. “We also notice that babies born in winter months seem to get more coughs and colds, while those in spring and summer often are more prone to allergies. For their general wellbeing, it’s good for pregnant women to get out into the sunlight and increase their vitamin D levels, but I don’t think we’ve got enough scientific research to say conclusively that one time of the year is significantly better than another to have a baby as so many genetic and lifestyle factors play a part in future health and happiness.”
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But what about practical reasons? Being heavily pregnant over summer can be hot and exhausting, whereas in winter you can mainly stay indoors and watch those DVD boxsets you know you’ll never see otherwise. But neither is it any fun to be due in the winter and find yourself tramping through the snow to your ante-natal class, wondering how many midwives might not be able to get to work because of the weather on the day you go into labour.
And there’s more. Having a newborn in the middle of winter might mean you’re less likely to leave the house in the early days (by the time you’ve manoeuvred tiny limbs into cardigans and snowsuits it’s probably time to take them all off again for a nappy change). But on the plus side, you can then spend lovely lazy days in the park in the summer while your six-month-old baby is entertained for hours looking at the trees and the sky. But the advantage of having a newborn in summer is that there are more hours of light so when you’ve been up five times in the night and have to concede defeat at 4.30am, at least it’s not pitch black as you make your way downstairs to start the day.
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"I think most midwives would agree the best time to give birth is in the spring,” says Jacob. “It’s more comfortable for women to be heavily pregnant over the winter months - they feel less frustrated than those waiting to give birth in the height of summer.”
So statistically when are the most babies born? “More women conceive during the winter months when people stay in more, and obviously that includes Christmas and New Year,” says Jacob. Fast-forward nine months and that would explain why the summer months of July, August, September and October have the highest numbers of births each year. “February is consistently the month with the fewest births as there’s not much going on during May,” adds Jacob. “But we’re expecting to see a rise in births around March/April 2013 after this year’s Olympics and Queen's Jubilee!"
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Well, while every month seems to have its advantages and disadvantages, we can’t help feeling that if February is the “quiet” month in the labour wards, then that may well be the best month to have a baby, simply because everyone else isn’t. Although don’t tell all your friends why you’re unavailable this May, or they might all get in on the action. So to speak…Do you think your birth month had any impact on your happiness, health or development? Share your story below.