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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 17:43 GMT


Too late for millennium baby?

Preparing for the baby boom - a human egg

Planning to scoop a big reward for the first millennium baby?

You may be too late, according to a leading fertility specialist.

Watch the moment of conception from The Human Body
According to media pundits, the next three weeks are the ideal conception period for a New Year baby.

Tabloid newspapers are expected to offer large sums for access to the first baby of the new millennium.

And radio and television plan to offer themed nights of romantic broadcasting to get couples in the mood.

Impossible plan

But critics have attacked the morality of aiming to have a child for publicity's sake.

[ image: A sperm seeks out its target]
A sperm seeks out its target
Among them is Professor Lord Robert Winston.

And he says many people have already missed their chance anyway.

This is because the average pregnancy lasts 281 days with a standard deviation of 10 days, he said. There are 290 days left until the millennium.

For many women, especially those with longer menstrual cycles, this means it is already too late.

It is as good as impossible to plan a child for the millennium in the first place, he said.

Professor Lord Robert Winston on the chances of success
And there was no point attempting to have a child from a cold start.

"It takes the average couple five months anyway," he said.

Giving birth on a particular date is very much a lottery. Only 5% of women given a date for birth actually do so on the appointed day.

The wrong reasons

Professor Winston criticised the motives of would-be millennium parents.

He said: "I find all this really a bit distasteful because for so many people in Britain the real problem is actually having a baby at all.

"What I think is sad is that we focus on the wrong things.

[ image: Success - the fused gametes contain the unique genetic pattern of the new child]
Success - the fused gametes contain the unique genetic pattern of the new child
"The truth is that in a year when we're considering the family politically and socially, 10% of the population are finding it extraordinarily difficult either to have a pregnancy or to get funding for NHS treatment to help them have a pregnancy."

Professor Winston did, however, offer some advice to couples hoping to conceive.

"The best thing is to have sex very often," he said.

"Statistics show that if you have sex 21 times a month your mean conception interval is about two months."

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