Babies born at night at risk: Study

London: Babies born at night or at the weekend are at greater risk of dying due to lack of oxygen (anoxia) than those born during normal working hours, Cambridge researchers have found.

Together with colleagues from the University of Glasgow and NHS National Services Scotland, Professor Gordon Smith of the University of Cambridge analysed more than one million births and infant deaths in Scotland between 1985 and 2004.

They found the risk of neonatal death was 4.2 per 10,000 live births during the working week, compared with 5.6 per 10,000 at other times -a small but significant excess risk, a university release said.

Although the researchers did not have access to information on the exact care provided during each birth, the study suggests the additional risk may be due to how many nurses and doctors are available at different times of day, as well as access to facilities such as operating theatres.

Addressing these issues could reduce the risk, Professor Smith said, adding, "One approach may be to increase the provision of midwifery and obstetric staff to allow better staffing out of hours. Another may be to determine minimum levels of access to operating theatres and supporting staff at all times".

The study is published in this week issue of the `British Medical Journal`.



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