A bunch of her L&D friends commented along the lines of, “Don’t remind me! I’m working this weekend.”
The full moon came Sunday night and, if these nurses are right, the labor and delivery wards across the country were hopping.
But does a full moon actually trigger labor, or is this just an old wives tale?
A couple of studies have shown that more babies are born between the last quarter and the new moon. And fewest are born in the first quarter. One Italian study tracked over a thousand spontaneous full-term deliveries over a three year period and found a connection between the lunar cycle and labor, especially in women who had given birth before.
Anecdotal evidence is strong on this topic. I’ve heard lots of nurses and doulas talk about how busy things get when a full moon is approaching. “On the full moons everyone comes in ready to deliver, or close to it, or at least very active. We only had one section for FTP yesterday (much less than other days). There were definitely cosmic forces at work,” Emily told me.
“And when it rains, or is about to rain, everyone’s water breaks. If I’m going to work and it’s raining I know it will be busy,” she added.
But doctors and midwives at Duke University think the full moon birthing boom is really just a myth: Amy MacDonald, director of Duke Midwifery Services, claims that while, “there are lots of belief systems and cultures around the world linking the cycle of the moon and women’s fertility,” it’s not actually based in fact. She does believe, however, that women tend to go into labor more often when there’s a change in barometric pressure.
Aside from rain storms and full moons, Emily warns of one other possible trigger of labor: shopping till your drop. Literally.
“Some days it’s busy because we get lots of pre-termers, like Black Friday when all the ladies are shopping and forget to drink water and come in with pre-term contractions. I refuse to work Black Friday for this reason, it’s insanely busy.” Dehydration is the number one cause of premature labor. So grab a bottle of water before you hit the mall.
The real reason women go into labor may not have anything to do with these external events, and very much to do with the baby being ready to be born. But, despite all the technology and research at our disposal, that process is still largely mysterious to us. As mysterious and natural as a rain storm, or a full moon, or mad dehydrating rush for discounted appliances at Walmart.