Born under a full moon

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 30, 2008

There was a full moon last Wednesday, when Ischa was born. A month earlier, I was at a Christmas party in Belgium, and was warned to return home on time ‘because babies tend to be born when there’s a full moon.’ Why that would be so, no-one has yet told me. But it is a fact that last Wednesday, the delivery ward in the hospital was full, and two women had to be referred to another hospital. The nurse who served breakfast confidently told me she knew it would be busy when she came to work the night before – she had noticed that the moon was full.

I’ve also been told that children born under a full moon would somehow be special. Ischa is absolutely adorable (I know, I know, all parents suffer from this kind of prejudice); he’s been rather kind to his parents (so far!) by sleeping relatively well at night; he’s a big supporter of the nappies industry; and he makes an interesting case study for international private law scholars, since, “just as his older brother”:, he has two different official surnames thanks to the unwillingness of the Belgian state to recognise the surname that his parents have chosen for him. Yet whether any of that can be traced back to his being born under a full moon — I doubt it.



abb1 01.30.08 at 2:07 pm

According to wikipedia:

Astronomer Daniel Caton analyzed 70,000,000 birth records from the National Center for Health Statistics, and no correlation between births and moon phase was found. Kelly, Rotton, and Culver report that Caton examined 45,000,000 births and found a weak peak around the third quarter phase of the Moon, while the full moon and new moon phases had an average or slightly below average birth rate.

In 1959 Walter and Abraham Menaker reported that a study of over 510,000 births in New York City showed a 1 percent increase in births in the two weeks after full moon. In 1967 Walter Menaker studied another 500,000 births in New York City, and this time he found a 1 percent increase in births in the two-week period centered on the full moon. In 1973 M. Osley, D. Summerville, and L. B. Borst studied another 500,000 births in New York City, and they reported a 1 percent increase in births before the full moon. In 1957 Rippmann analyzed 9,551 births in Danville, PA and found no correlation between the birth rate and the phase of the moon.

Maybe it’s a Belgian thing.


Matt 01.30.08 at 2:11 pm

Congratulations, Ingrid! I hope all (continues to) go smoothly.


Russ 01.30.08 at 2:12 pm

A where site that one can plug in their birthday and find the phase of the moon is here.


Ingrid Robeyns 01.30.08 at 2:17 pm

haha, I like that suggestion, abb1. In any case bad news for people who like these kinds of folkwisdom…


Eszter 01.30.08 at 2:57 pm

Congratulations, Ingrid!


derek 01.30.08 at 3:00 pm

As abb1 says, this is a story that’s far too easy to check, as hospitals have good records of birth that can be matched against phase of the moon.

There is, however, as Jon Peltier has noted, a very good correlation between birth rates and public holidays. Presumably, doctors try to induce more births in the period leading up to the holidays, to avoid the risk of subjecting their client the mother-to-be to an understaffed hospital. As a result, the number of births neatly drops to partially compensate for the smaller staff in attendance on (in the US) Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.


Matt 01.30.08 at 3:12 pm

Derek- are you sure that doctors do that for the sake of the clients? I would have guessed they too hoped to take the day off. (I worked in a hospital for a few years and we did try to send as many patients home as possible and didn’t schedule things for holidays when possible, but this was in part so that we _could_ be on low staffing. Most people hoped to take the day off themselves.)


Colin Danby 01.30.08 at 3:16 pm

Congratulations Ingrid and welcome aboard, Ischa.
And legends are *supposed* to be baseless — that doesn’t stop them being fun.


Jacob Christensen 01.30.08 at 3:34 pm

It would be fun to put Mythbusters on the case – but as solving it probably doesn’t involve the use of explosives or falling things, chances are slight.

Re: Name. I see a great movie entitled Plan 9 from the Belgian bureaucracy in the future.

The best of luck to y’all. Whatever your names may be.


Maria 01.30.08 at 5:56 pm

Congratulations, Ingrid! and welcome to the new Timbertot. I think that makes three between us since we’ve been at this lark; one for Henry, one more each for you and Kieran. Am I missing anyone?


via 01.30.08 at 7:45 pm

What a beautiful and unusual name. Ischa. What is its background?


Ben Clark 01.30.08 at 10:00 pm

My uneducated preposterous guess why we there may be more babies with full moons: Increased gravitational pull on the full moon is more likely to pull the baby out of the momma.


freight train 01.30.08 at 10:47 pm

Hey, my baby was just born on that same full moon, at about 39 weeks 2 days! I choose to go with Ben Clark’s theory above.


astrongmaybe 01.30.08 at 11:08 pm

Fantastico! Congratulations Ingrid.


astrongmaybe 01.30.08 at 11:11 pm

That’s a wonderful opening sentence too, sounds straight out of a 1930s short story.


John Quiggin 01.31.08 at 12:25 am

Congratulations, Ingrid and, of course, Ischa!


laura 01.31.08 at 12:30 am



vivian 01.31.08 at 2:21 am

(Maria, you forgot Harry’s latest.) Congrats to the happy families, new and old members alike. Maybe CT could start a periodic brag-thread, every quarter or so? Or maybe run a symposium on the latest Sandra Boynton book?


bemused 01.31.08 at 4:20 am

Perhaps this may be relevant, from Wikipedia [[Menstrual cycle]]:

A 1975 book by Louise Lacey documented the experience of herself and 27 of her friends, who found that when they removed all artificial nightlighting their menstrual cycles began to occur in rhythm with the lunar cycle. She dubbed the technique Lunaception.[22] Later studies in both humans[23] and animals[24] have found that artificial light at night does influence the menstrual cycle in humans and the estrus cycle in mice (cycles are more regular in the absence of artificial light at night), though none have duplicated the synchronization of women’s menstrual cycles with the lunar cycle.


krhasan 01.31.08 at 5:25 am

In Sri Lanka every full moon day is a public holiday. It would be interesting to see whether births are more or less on these days compared to others. The effect of doctors inducing births before the holiday vs an increase if any caused by the moon itself.


Ingrid Robeyns 01.31.08 at 8:02 am

Via (#11): Ischa is derived from Isaac; yet I suppose it’s a Dutch derivation. It’s certainly not a very common name – I ‘know’ only two Ischa’s — the 11 year old son of a Belgian friend, the other the (locally) famous Dutch writer/public figure Ischa Meier, though he died before I came to the Netherlands, so I don’t know what kind of person he was. In any case, we chose this name on esthetic grounds, and also because we prefer less common names over very common names.


Ingrid Robeyns 01.31.08 at 8:06 am

freight train: congratulations to you too! In fact, I know of at least three other CT readers/commenters who had babies in the last two months, congratulations!


bad Jim 01.31.08 at 9:47 am

There is a plague of babies upon us. My middle-aged brother has one (Sam, and how sweet he is!), my eldest nephew has one (Jonathan), and his little sister has one in the oven (Oliver?). Everywhere I go I see little tykes and swollen bellies – as though this was somehow a good thing.

Love and congratulations to all.

I couldn’t find any sort of moon phase correlation for my parents, my siblings or their progeny. Certain events seemed to be significant: my sister was born nine months after my parents’ wedding, confounding my mother’s career plans.

(“Inconceivable!” “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”)


abb1 01.31.08 at 9:56 am

When I saw the name I assumed it was a variant of Jascha (a form of ‘Jakob’), like Jascha Heifetz.


ashok 02.02.08 at 10:17 am


My own thought is that special phenomena accompany special people. If the moon was full when he was born, it had everything to do with the moon recognizing his significance, not the other way around.

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