Why is “Labor” Day in September? A Look at Average Birth Rates by Day of the Year

IMG_6103.JPG

A quick internet search reveals a history of why Labor Day is held the first Monday of September in the US (and Canada). However, I like to think it may have something to do with the fact that September is the most common month for giving birth! According to this infographic on the Daily Viz, September 9 was the most common birthday of the year in the US, averaging 12,301 births in the twenty year period between 1994 and 2014. My birthday, just five days later, ranks 24th most common. Sixteen of the top 25 dates were in September. (The winter holidays must be very romantic for many Americans!)

Looking closely at the chart, you may notice the least common days that babies were born. They include, in order: Christmas, New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve, Independence Day, January 2, December 26, then the dates around Thanksgiving (remember, this is a different date every year).  Hmm...that certainly can’t be for natural reasons! The highlights of the info-graphic note it may be due to “Choice: Clearly, some people choose when they have their children.” But is it really the birthing families making that choice? 

Realistically, how much choice do parents actually have over when their babies are born? Conception can only happen one or two days per month- anyone who has struggled with fertility, even just a little bit, knows that you don’t just decide what day you get pregnant. And even if you could, the range of full-term gestation is a full five weeks! Babies conceived on the same day can have birthdays a full month apart and still be considered healthy, full-term babies. 

The reason for significantly lower birth rates on the holidays is obviously induction and/or scheduled cesarean. But is that choice driven by parents? According to the third Listening to Mothers Survey, in which 2,400 American mothers were surveyed about their birth experiences, only 1% of mothers who had a primary cesarean indicated that they requested the surgery with no medical indication. The survey did not specifically address induction or elective cesarean for the sole purpose of avoiding a holiday, and finding concrete research on this specific issue proved to be a challenge. In my experience, most mothers due near a major holiday have expressed the hope that they would not deliver on that day, mostly for their child’s sake of having to share their birthday. A few have been concerned by inadequate staffing on a major holiday. Nevertheless, I can’t remember even one mom in all my years of teaching who chose induction solely for the reason of avoiding a holiday. On the flip side, I have had many moms express pressure from their doctors who would be going off call for a vacation or holiday, even throwing in a reason that may appear to be medically indicated: for example, the doctor who urged induction for a big baby at mom’s 40-week appointment on December 21. (Research, outlined here at Evidence Based Birth does indicate that a “big” baby is not a reason for induction.)

Truly medically indicated induction (or elective cesarean) should not skew birth rates so much that the average number of babies being born on Christmas is half of the most common birth day of the year! Research shows that the risks of induction and cesarean outweigh the benefits when there is not a concrete medical reason for these procedures. If you are a birthing mom due around a holiday, be sure to know your options, as well as evidence regarding induction, as your due date approaches. Ultimately, the decision is up to you!