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Experts: "Blizzard babies" a misconception

Published 8:01 pm, Saturday, February 9, 2013
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Whenever there's a major weather event -- a snow storm, a blackout-inducing hurricane -- you see the inevitable winking and nudging about how there will likely be a baby boom in nine months.

After all, when people are stuck indoors with nothing to do but "enjoy each other's company," who wouldn't expect them to turn on the Barry White, light some candles and pass the time in a romantic fashion?

Dr. Lindsey Bruce, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Shelton, is a firm believer in this concept.

"Whenever it gets crazy busy, we count backward nine months to see if anything happened," Bruce said. Usually, she said, the math bears out. "I definitely think this is true."

Thus, she's confident that, nine months from now, she and her colleagues will see a blitz of babies conceived during the winter storm that hammered the state this weekend.

But statistical experts aren't so sure that people getting extra cozy during a storm leads to a pregnancies bump.

"I think it's a tall tale," said Mark Mather, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that researches population trends. He said there's no hard evidence to suggest a spike in births nine months following an isolated event like a snow storm.

In fact, in 1970, the late J. Richard Udry, a demographic researcher from the University of North Carolina, did a study debunking the idea.

Udry looked at the birth rate in New York following the 1965 blackout in that city, and found nothing above average.

However, Mather said, he knows that many strongly believe in a link between major events and birth booms.

"I think, when you have something that sounds like it makes sense, we tend to look for evidence to support our preconceived notions," he said.

That doesn't mean that major events never lead to spikes in births.

In 2005, researchers from the University of Oklahoma, questioned whether the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 influenced fertility patterns in Oklahoma. According to the researchers, the tragedy showed an "interpretable, consistent and significant increase in births."

Bruce, meanwhile, is firm in her belief that events like this weekend's storm lead to mini-baby booms.

"You're all cooped up with nothing to do," she said.

acuda@ctpost.com; 203-330-6290; twitter.com/AmandaCuda; http://blog.ctnews.com/whatthehealth/