Babies Born at Night Have Greater Risk of Death

There is strong evidence that babies born at night have a greater risk of dying in their first month of life than babies born earlier in the day, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

"We're not surprised at this finding because it is supported by previous studies in the medical literature that were carried out in Europe," said Diane M. Ashton, M.D., M.P.H., associate medical director of the March of Dimes. "More research needs to be done to identify the causal factors that underlie this greater risk. This would be an important next step in developing effective strategies to prevent these excess neonatal deaths from occurring. If even one or two of the key elements could be identified, that could make a big difference in saving babies' lives."

"Time of Birth and the Risk of Neonatal Death," by Jeffrey B. Gould, M.D., M..P.H., of the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, and colleagues, appears in the August issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The authors analyzed the records of more than 3.3 million babies born in California from 1992 to 1999. Babies born at night had a 12 to 16 percent increase in neonatal mortality (death occurring less than 28 days after birth), accounting for almost 10 percent of all neonatal deaths in California.

In the United States in 2002, 27,970 babies died before reaching their first birthday -- of which 18,791 or 67.2 percent of deaths occurred during the neonatal period.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth.

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