End-of-year baby boom is just hype

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The Independent Online
THE PREDICTED millennium baby-boom and ensuing chaos in maternity hospitals over the new year will not happen, a survey showed yesterday.

Researchers at the University of Southampton studied the health, diets and life- styles of 20,000 women and say they have found no evidence to support the baby-boom theory. Data gathered as part of the Southampton Women's Survey over the past few months indicates the number of babies scheduled to be born at the start of the new millennium is no higher than usual.

Dr Hazel Inskip, the survey's co-ordinator, said: "The millennium baby boom has been much publicised as a problem for the NHS.

"We were expecting to see a sudden rise in the number of pregnancies in our study, but this has not happened at all. This must be reassuring to those working in the health service as we move into the next millennium."

All women aged between 20 and 34 in Southampton have been studied in the survey and the team has been monitoring the number of pregnancies identified each month.

The Royal College of Midwives has carried out its own nationwide survey in preparation for the predicted baby boom and the results are expected next month. The college was concerned that some couples may have been tempted to conceive after cash offers by the media to the parents of the first baby of the new millennium. "We wouldn't expect anybody to want a baby for frivolous reasons like being the first of the year," said a spokeswoman.

Only 5 per cent of babies are born on the predicted date and a gestation period of anything between 37 and 42 weeks is considered normal, which causes difficulties in selecting a specific day for birth. On 1 January 1997, 2,000 babies were born in the United Kingdom.

In April - nine months before the new millennium - Louise Silverton, of the college, said: "We are deeply concerned that further pressure could be put on an already over-burdened maternity service by what is in effect a publicity stunt."