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Studies done in UK and Canada finds higher risks for babies born over the weekend.


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A study, published in the British Medical Journal has discovered that there is a greater risk of death and other complications compared to those babies born during the week.

The study states: “Babies born in English NHS hospitals at the weekend have a slightly greater risk of death within the first seven days, compared with those born during the week, finds a study in  The BMJ today.

The results also suggest increases in the rates of other complications for both mothers admitted and babies born at weekends.   The researchers estimate that around 770 newborn deaths and 470 maternal infections per year above what might be expected if performance was consistent across women admitted, and babies born, on different days of the week.

Previous studies have identified a higher risk of death in patients admitted to hospital on weekends (compared with weekdays) across a range of conditions – a phenomenon termed the “weekend effect.” But studies on whether obstetric outcomes are associated with day of delivery have given conflicting results.   So researchers at Imperial College London set out to investigate the association between day of delivery and measures of quality and safety of maternity services, particularly comparing weekend with weekday performance.”

“They analysed details of deliveries in English NHS public services from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2012 from the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) database. Primary measures were perinatal mortality (stillbirth or death within the first seven days), infections, emergency re-admissions, and injuries.   Several factors were taken into account, including a mother’s age and ethnic group, socioeconomic deprivation, previous caesarean section, and existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Staffing levels were also investigated.

The team found that performance across four of the seven measures was significantly worse for women admitted, and babies born, at weekends.   In particular, the perinatal mortality rate was 7.3 per 1,000 babies delivered at weekends, 0.9 per 1,000 higher than for weekdays.

No consistent association between outcomes and staffing was identified, although trusts that complied with recommended levels of consultant presence had a slightly lower perineal tear rate than non-compliant services.

They estimate that 770 more perinatal deaths per year, from the annual total of 4,500 deaths among 675,000 births, occurred above what we would expect if mortality was always the same as for babies delivered on Tuesday, the midweek reference day.    They also found 470 maternal infections above what would be expected from performance seen for women admitted on the reference day.   The authors stress that this is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and say several factors not accounted for may have influenced the findings. ”

Nevertheless, they say their study represents the most comprehensive assessment of its type of the “weekend effect” in obstetric care, and they suggest that further work is needed “to understand what organisational factors might influence the weekend effect and to investigate centres that have reduced the disparities in access and outcome in out of hours care.”

More research is needed in obstetrics to explore capacity strain and identify effective strategies to safeguard maternal and infant outcomes during such vulnerable times, they write.   However, they point out that weekend delivery “is an inevitable part of everyday practice” and call for solutions “to determine what explains the apparent protective effect of weekday delivery and how to extend these benefits to women who deliver at the weekend, and their babies.”

A Canadian study conducted in 2004 also came to the same conclusion…

“The risk of stillbirth or early neonatal death is greater among infants delivered on weekends in Canada, says a study in the new issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr. Michael Kramer, of the department of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University in Montreal, and his colleagues examined data from more than 3 million births recorded in Canada between 1985 and 1998.

They wanted to determine if delivery in a country with universal health care was riskier on weekends.

The study concluded the risk of stillbirth and early neonatal death was about 6 percent greater on weekends compared to weekdays. That difference was less when the researchers factored in the length of gestation, which is a known risk factor for stillbirth and neonatal death.

The researchers write that this reduction in excess risk after adjustment for gestational age can likely be explained by the selective timing of low-risk elective deliveries, most of which are scheduled on weekdays.”

Lucky for me, both my boys were born during the week.  I hate to think what might have happened if our heart baby was born on the weekend and we had limited availability to specialist care. *shudder

Share your thoughts below.

  • I heard of a Mum who had excessive bleeding and also needed stitches. They left her alone for nearly an hour. Her baby was in the room with her but not close enough for her to comfort him. Every time she forgot and turned that way she felt the blood flow gushing out. She needed a blood transfusion. I don’t know what day it was, but she refused to go to that hospital when she had her 2nd baby.

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  • Thank you for sharing the interesting article.

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  • Very informative gives one something to really think about. As they say though it’s probably a mix between the low risk book ins ( like three of mine were as had to be c’sections ) and lack of weekend specialists.

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  • I’d say there is less staff on weekend or more people ‘on call’ rather then already there. :(

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  • What a great finding and hope this will help new mums

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  • Didn’t realise there was such a connection… Not like you can really choose what day you give birth haha

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  • Interesting, never heard of such a connection. My kids were born on weekdays and weekends and I was just greatful for safe health bundle of joy. At that stage of pregnancy I just wanted them to be born I didn’t care about day or time.

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  • oh wow! that is a little frightening! that is high statistics!

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  • Two of my sons were born on a Thursday, my daughter on a Saturday & my youngest on a Friday night (who was preemie) all healthy now :)

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  • Interesting stats.

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  • Really? I think there can be a risk on any day of the week

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  • The only factor that could account for these statistics is the hospital staff – are they less attentive on weekends, or is there less staff working on weekends?

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  • Perhaps the fact that weekend nurses usually only work weekends because they can earn as much money in two days as they can in a week [this has been stated to me by two daughter-in-laws and my daughter as well as a couple of other nurse friends] could be a factor. They seem to be more interested in the money than their supposed ‘love of nursing’.
    So long as the birth is normal nothing untoward happens, but if there is a problem?

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  • Where do they find these statements? maybe nurses are not so caring on weekends? 3 of my girls where born on weekends! and they are now all grown up and healthy!

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  • It is very interesting to find out.

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