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FULL MOON truthiness

Doctors can be very superstitious. I’m not one of them. I don’t think saying “I hope there’s not a lot of traffic” predisposes me to bumper-to-bumper worst-of-LA congestion all the way home. I don’t think saying out loud “I hope I don’t get paged during dinner” means I should just order it all to go.

But I do believe crazy things happen during a full moon. Antecdoctally I can tell you that more deliveries occur, stranger diagnoses are made, and stranger patients come in for treatment (I say this lovingly).

I was on call at my hospital the last full moon – August 31st. I unfortunately can’t tell you the details because of HIPPA, but the end result: 3 inches of water covering the entire labor room floor.

Like any inquisitive doctor, I turned to the literature. Have the effects of pregnancy and the full moon been studied?

Of course the answer is yes. Multiple studies over the past 40+ years have tried to find a correlation. Of course the medical community cannot study if “stranger diagnoses are made” or if “stranger patients” present for care. These would be too subjective. What has been looked at time and time again is birth rate. All the studies, contrary to my beliefs, have failed to show that more patients give birth during a full moon.

Still, research has persisted. The most recent study I could find is “Birth rate and its correlation with the lunar cycle and specific atmospheric conditions.”

Key point from the study:

Birth rates were consistent throughout the month, regardless of the status of the moon.

Interesting enough: Birth rates were lowest on Sundays. Highest on Thursdays. They rose linearly from Sunday to Thursday, then fell back to a nadir on Sunday.

Regardless of these studies, there still seems to be some truthiness to the idea that the full moon affects birth rates. Stephen Colbert, I hope, would agree with me.

** Stephen Colbert coined the phrase Truthiness – defined as a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

Study: Morton-Pradham, Susan et al. Birth rate and its correlation with the lunar cycle and specific atmospheric conditions. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2006) 192, 1970-3.
Truthiness:  from The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert via Wikipedia


Sep 2, 2012

Original post published: 

* Content reviewed annually for accuracy 

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