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Possible Influence of Halloween on Childbirth

One reason that people see relatively few brand-newborns trick-or-treating on Halloween is that fewer are born on Halloween than on an average day. That’s one of the possible implications certain people could draw if they wish to after reading the following study:

Influence of Valentine’s Day and Halloween on Birth Timing,” Becca R. Levy [pictured here], Pil H. Chung, Martin D. Slade, Social Science and Medicine, 2011 Oct;73(8):1246-8. The authors, at Yale University, School of Public Health, report:

“It is known that cultural representations, in the form of stereotypes, can influence functional health. We predicted that the influence of cultural representations, in the form of salient holidays, would extend to birth timing. On Valentine’s Day, which conveys positive symbolism, there was a 3.6% increase in spontaneous births and a 12.1% increase in cesarean births. Whereas, on Halloween, which conveys negative symbolism, there was a 5.3% decrease in spontaneous births and a 16.9% decrease in cesarean births. These effects reached significance at p < .0001, after adjusting for year and day of the week. The sample was based on birth-certificate information for all births in the United States within one week on either side of each holiday across 11 years. The Valentine’s-Day window included 1,676,217 births and the Halloween window included 1,809,304 births. Our findings raise the possibility that pregnant women may be able to control the timing of spontaneous births, in contrast to the traditional assumption, and that scheduled births are also influenced by the cultural representations of the two holidays.”

(Thanks to investigators Doug Halemi and Concetta Russell for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Try Nerdy’s take on the matter

Improbable Research