Birth rate drops when obstetricians leave town

by Roger Dobson

AIMS Journal 2007, Vol 19, No 3

First printed in BMJ 2007; 335:66-67 (14 July), doi:10.1136/bmj.39269. 598079.DB

New research shows that when obstetricians and gynaecologists are away at national conferences the number of births drop (Social Science and Medicine 2007 Jun 27 doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.05.034).

Researchers found that the number of births dropped by up to 4% during five day key annual conferences in the United States and Australia, with nearly 1000 births affected.

'Since it is unlikely that parents take these conferences into account when conceiving their child, this suggests that medical professionals are timing births to suit their conference schedule,' say Joshua Gans from the University of Melbourne and coauthors from the Australian National University, in Canberra.

They say that although medical conferences have become a normal part of the career of many doctors, little has been written about how hospitals and others manage the effects on the supply of available staff.

In the study the authors looked at daily birth rates in the two countries and matched them with the annual meetings of the largest conferences of obstetricians and gynaecologists in each country, the annual scientific meetings of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, over a 12 year period.

In Australia conferences were associated with a 3.8% fall in births and in the US with a 1.5% fall in births. 'To give some sense of the magnitude of these effects, the results suggest that the average obstetrics conference in Australia leads to 126 babies being born on a different date than if the conference had not taken place, while the average obstetrics conference in the United States leads to 864 babies being born on a different date than if the conference had not taken place,' says the report.

The authors say that although little is known about the effects on infant health of moving the timing of a birth for non-medical reasons, it's plausible that such changes may raise the chance of complications during birth.

'In this instance, the increased risk to infant health is likely to be small, since most movements are likely to be small, one week or less, and appear to have been anticipated - as evidenced by the rise in births prior to the conference,' the authors say.

They say that professional obstetrics societies should reconsider the timing of annual conferences and hold them at times of the year when the natural birth rate is at a minimum. For the Australian conference that would mean dates in the last week in November or the first week in December, and for the US the last week in November or the first week in January.

Latest Content


« »

Making Decisions

AIMS Journal, 2017, Vol 29 No 3 A huge welcome to readers old and new! The AIMS Journal, the backbone of our work for nearly 60 years, is now entirely available online, t…

Read more

Monitoring babies during labour: wh…

AIMS Journal, 2017, Vol 29 No 3 Jo Dagustun reports on the INFANT trial study day in October 2017 This national (central Birmingham based) free-to-attend study day on the…

Read more

What AIMS did for me: Ann Roberts

AIMS Journal, 2017, Vol 29 No 3 Ann Roberts shares her story of how AIMS helped her back in 1983 I first contacted AIMS 34 years ago (1983), when I was pregnant with my s…

Read more


« »

MBRRACE-UK ‘Saving Lives, Improving…

To register your interest please email or keep an eye on our website . Earlybird bookings will open…

Read more

Midwifery Today Conference “Birthin…

17–21 October 2018 Further Details

Read more


AIMS AGM 2018 All members welcome! Please email if you plan to attend to help us to judge numbers, or if you wish to send apologies 10 for 10.30 sta…

Read more

Latest Campaigns

« »

Dr. Ágnes Geréb, Hungarian Midwife…

Dr. Ágnes Geréb is a Hungarian obstetrician and midwife who has been under house arrest following her support for women outside of the obstetric system. March 2018: ENCA…

Read more

"Promoting professionalism, reformi…

AIMS submitted our response to this consultation on the 23 January 2018. A number of regulators, including the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Professional Standards A…

Read more

The backlash against Normal Birth

Beverley Lawrence Beech At an AIMS AGM it is customary for the Chair to give an account of the activities of the Committee during the year. I am not going to do that this…

Read more