Wednesday, November 2, 2011

There are less births on days like Halloween

Scientists have found a relationship between certain days of the year and the number of births, as part of the hypothesis that cultural representations of days influences the minds of women, which correspondingly can delay or speed up birth. On Halloween, scientists found a decrease of births by 5,3 percent, while cesarean births were down 16,9 percent. In contrast, Valentine's day was found to be associated with an increase of 3,6 percent, while cesarean births were up 12,1 percent. All differences were found to be statistically relevant.

According to the scientists, cultural representations of positive and negative days impact births in the same way.  They do, however, not give an explanation about the possible physiological mechanisms that causes a positive view on a day to accelerate birth, or vice versa.

Pathway leading to production of stress hormone.
It is already known that the psychological condition of the mother can affect the unborn child. During development, the embryo and the mother share blood circulation, though they are partially separated by the placenta. Because the unborn child is fed by the mother, it is logical that the mother's behaviour impact the child: fastfood, smoking and other unhealthy behaviour can severely damage the unborn child, especially in brain development. Factors like stress also have an effect, as activation of the stress axis leads to the production of a hormone called cortisol, which induces all kinds of changes in the body.

Because psychological aspects can lead to changes in the body, it can also affect the unborn child, leading to various diseases later on in live, such as schizophrenia. The latest study about the impact of certain days fits with this hypothesis: the representation a mother has on a certain day, such as Valentine's day can induce changes that lead to the onset of birth. Valentine's day for example, is associated with love, and the corresponding hormone in the body is called oxytocin. Because it also plays a role in inducing birth, these feelings could tip the balance, and start the birth process.

This is, of course, just a hypothesis. More research should be conducted to assess whether representations of days really lead to physiological changes in the body, which could be held accountable for an increase of the chance of birth.

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