Birth Injuries Happen More at Night

June 5, 2014

According to a recent study, birth injuries tend to happen more during night hours. Although a few factors may play into why this happens, experts suggest that medical staff that work nights are typically less experienced and more fatigued that medical staff who work daytime hours.

Per An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), a study of over 700,000 deliveries between the years 2000 through 2006 indicates that women who were admitted to a hospital for labor and delivery during night hours not only had an increased risk of the infant needing intensive neonatal unit care, but also heightened the risk of infant death. The study, which researched births in a Dutch hospital, states the findings are common among several other similar studies.

Infants born in smaller community-type hospitals who were delivered between the hours of 6 p.m. until midnight or from midnight to 8 a.m. were between 32% to 47% more likely to experience infant death when compared to babies born during daytime hours. Large hospitals were found to have similar outcomes; however, only overnight births (midnight to 8 a.m.) showed an increased risk in infant death.

It’s important to note, however, that per Dr. Eric A.P. Steegers, a senior researcher with Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, risks for infant fatality will also be higher in undereveloped countries: 

“It is very important indeed to realize that risks are generally low and that the level of care in these kinds of Western countries is high,” Dr. Steegers told Reuters Health

In addition, the type of healthcare providers on board during labor, delivery, and shortly after birth greatly affects the outcome. For instance, if additional staff members are present at night during births, including anesthesiologists and neonatologists,  the risks of complications decrease.  Furthermore, if senior staff are present, the risks are reduced even more. Experts believe that physicians with less experience are more likely to work night shifts at hospitals and much more like to make medical mistakes that lead to birth injuries and even infant death.

Fatigue and exhaustion may also play into the complications. During night hours, medical staff are often not at their best, leading to careless mistakes and negligence. Even frequent naps don’t seem to help night-shift physicians and other staff members, as experts state that it takes at least a half an hour upon waking up to get the brain to back to full-function mode again.

Experts suggest that more flexible hours and more qualified staff members at hospitals may solve the problem. However, others suggest that having more staff and flexible hours would mean less hospital, specifically less community hospitals, which means the problems may still occur as more and more women will have to wait for proper medical attention.