Each year, more than 10,000 babies are born in the U.S. with a condition known as neonatal encephalopathy, a condition that affects a baby's brain and neurological function. Over 50 percent of babies born with this condition will either die or grow up to have problems such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy later in life. Doctors now think that the time of day a baby is born may have something to do with the development of this serious condition.
A new study suggests that babies born late at night or in the wee hours of the morning may have a higher risk of neonatal encephalopathy than infants delivered during the day.
The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at the birth statistics of nearly 2 million term babies born in California during a 14-year period to determine whether or not the time of birth impacted the risk of complication.
Researchers found that more than 2,000 babies, or about 1.1 per 1,000 births, had brain problems. Sixteen percent of these babies died before reaching 1 month of age. Babies born at night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. had a 22 percent higher risk than babies born during the day of developing these brain problems.
Babies born over the weekend or at other times of day, did not have a greater risk of neonatal encephalopathy.
It's important to remember that the results of this study aren't saying that babies born at night will develop neonatal encephalopathy — so it's not something that soon-to-be moms need to worry about. But these results may give health experts one more link to preventing this serious, albeit extremely rare, condition.