Weekend births may pose greater risk to mom, baby

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Could the calendar date impact your health and that of your newborn baby? A new study, led by the Imperial College London and published in The British Medical Journal, seems to think so. According to the research, laboring moms and their babies experience higher rates of complications when admitted to the hospital over the weekend.

The phenomenon, known as the weekend effect, has garnered a lot of attention from the medical community – but this study is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind to turn the spotlight on childbirth specifically. Over the course of two years, researchers looked at more than 1 million women who checked into British hospitals. They found that those who were admitted on Saturdays and Sundays saw a sharp uptick in complications and negative outcomes, such as emergency admissions, birth injuries, tears, and infections.

The team took into account the quality of care women and their newborns received, as well as the safety and risks associated with services provided. Researchers adjusted data for maternal age, socioeconomic factors, prior births, and diseases such as high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, diabetes, obesity, and more.

When it came to labor and delivery during the weekend, the study found significantly higher incidences of perinatal mortality, maternal infections, re-admission to the hospital, and birth injuries.

“In our paper we tried to account for the fact that differences in rates of complications on different days may be due to chance, or that births on certain days are more complicated in some way. However, even after making these adjustments, we found the rates of complications vary on different days,” Professor. Paul Aylin, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College, London, said in a statement to Medical News Today.

Why do weekends matter?

One explanation, as presented by two U.S. obstetricians, is to point to a hospital’s capacity strain. Capacity strain posits that a unit’s performance decreases above a certain threshold of patient volume and complexity of cases.

While the team cited that more research is needed in this area, they did provide a number of additional safety measures hospitals should take to ensure patient safety – especially on the weekends.

At the end of the day, there will always be women who go into labor over the weekend. This study shines a light on a troublesome aspect of obstetrics – and encourages advancements to be made so that all women can approach their delivery dates with as much calm and confidence as can be expected.

Now, it’s your turn: What do you think of the BMJ’s most recent report? Are you a mom who’s given birth on a weekend? Weigh in with your story and share your experience below. 

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