Halloween, with its symbolism of witches and death, is treated as an unfavorable day for childbirth. In contrast, Valentine’s Day, with its symbolism of flowers and love, is treated as a favorable day for childbirth. The study found a decrease in births on Halloween and an increase on Valentine’s Day. The association of the two holidays with birth patterns was shown for the first time.
On Halloween there was a 5.3 percent decrease in spontaneous births and a 16.9 percent decrease in cesarean births, compared to other births occurring within one week before and one week after the October holiday. Whereas, on Valentine’s Day there was a 3.6 percent increase in spontaneous births and a 12.1 percent increase in cesarean births.
“The study suggests that beliefs arising from our culture can have a greater impact on physical functioning than we might suspect,” says Becca Levy, lead author and associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale. Study co-authors were Martin Slade and Pil Chung, also at Yale.
The findings show that pregnant women may have some control over the timing of spontaneous births—traditionally believed to be beyond their control—and that scheduled births are also affected by the symbolism of the two holidays.
The study drew on birth-certificate information for all births in the United States across 11 years. The Halloween period included 1.8 million births, and the Valentine’s Day period included 1.6 million births.
The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Social Science and Medicine.