Do you ever go through a period where it seems that everyone is popping out babies? Every time I get on Facebook lately, there's another photo from another proud mom or dad introducing yet another new baby. Which is kind of surprising ... considering Americans are statistically less likely to give birth in winter than in summer, by a pretty huge margin.
Didn't know that? Here's betting there's a lot you didn't know about winter babies! It turns out scientists are pretty fascinated by the effect the season of your birth has on your health and general well-being, and they've come up with a whole lot of research on what it means to be born when it's freezing cold outside. Let's dive in, shall we?
1. Winter babies are more likely to come from "less privileged" families. When economists from the University of Notre Dame did a review of birth certificates from 1989 to 2001, they found the percentage of children born to unwed mothers, teenage mothers, and mothers who hadn't completed high school peaked in January every year. The reasons? Among them was the assumption that poorer families are less likely to have air-conditioning, which means they are less likely to have sex in the hot summer months -- which results in a spring birth -- and more likely to do so during the cooler spring months. Add nine months, and you've got a January baby!
2. They're bigger than their summer counterparts. Scientists at both Harvard and Queensland (Australia) universities took a look at the statistics and found that children born in the winter months tended to be longer at birth than those born in the summer, and what's more, by age 7, the winter-born kids were heavier, taller, and had larger head circumference than their peers.
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3. They're not all that intelligent. According to Notre Dame researchers, babies born in January, February, and March tend to grow up to be less educated, less intelligent, less healthy, and lower paid than those born in spring, summer, and fall. Why? Researchers say it has to do with the aforementioned propensity for teen moms to give birth in winter and the difficulties these moms face.
4. They're smarter than their peers. Wait, didn't I just say winter babies were dumb? Well, that's according to one study! But the American and Australian scientists mentioned in #2 beg to differ! They monitored the development of 21,000 boys and girls, and their research indicates winter-born kids had higher scores in a series of intelligence exercises than their peers!
5. They're less likely to have multiple sclerosis. We've long heard that mom's health during pregnancy can affect a baby's health, but did you know something as simple as time of conception could do it? Oxford University researchers have found that babies born in November have the lowest incidence of multiples sclerosis, while babies CONCEIVED in the winter months tend to have the highest. Turns out moms get less vitamin D in winter (not surprisingly -- there's not a lot of exposure to sun), which can affect the fetus. Good news for moms who conceive in spring and summer -- and give birth in the winter!
6. Winter babies are more likely to be premature. Put the NICU on standby; babies conceived in May are more likely to be born early. Princeton researchers looked at data from the Vital Statistics Natality program, and even when they took out moms from a lower socioeconomic demographic (a risk factor for poor birth outcomes), they found babies due in the winter were as much as 10 percent likely to be born early. One of the big risk factors seemed to be the peak of flu season, prompting the researchers to advise moms due in winter to get their flu shot!
7. Winter babies behave better. Have you got a brat on your hands? Maybe it's because they were born during the summer? Queensland University researchers assessed everything from consideration of others to fidgeting among 4- and 5-year-olds and found the winter-born kiddos were much better behaved. Score!
8. They're depressed. Moms of winter babies might get enough sunshine to protect baby from some diseases, but what about baby? Turns out when you're born affects your biological clock, and babies who come out during the winter months have a higher risk of a number of neurological disorders including seasonal affective disorder (winter depression), bipolar depression, and schizophrenia. Scientists blame a lot of it on the amount of light newborns are exposed to -- or should I say are NOT exposed to.
9. They have weaker bones. Yet another strike linked to sunshine! Scientists at Bristol University in the UK have found that summer babies are, on average, half a centimeter taller (remember, these are the Brits, so everything is metric) and had nearly 13 cm sq of extra bone area as compared to winter babies. They blame it on the vitamin D absorption by moms in the later stages of pregnancy, something that's harder on mothers who have winter babies.
10. Winter babies are more prone to food allergies. It seems most kids have some sort of food allergy these days, but a report in the Journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology that looks at children brought into Boston emergency rooms with food-related allergic reactions found a much larger number were born in winter than summer or spring.
When was your baby born? Do these facts fit?
Image via Justin Paget/Corbis