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Tuesday, April 6, 1999 Published at 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK


Midwives to clock millennium baby

The race is on for the first baby of the next millennium

The race to bear the first child of the next millennium will be timed to the millisecond in an attempt to avoid disputes as to whose baby was born first.

Midwives at Southampton's Princess Anne Hospital plan to equip themselves with stopwatches so they can offer an exact time of birth for babies born on 1 January 2000.

It is expected that parents of the first millennium baby will be able to reap significant financial rewards in sponsorship deals and payments from the media.

Staff at the Princess Anne fear the race could turn nasty and are turning to stopwatches as a preventive measure.

Staff decision

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "It was a decision the midwives took among themselves.

"It is simply because there is so much on about having the first baby of the millennium around the country that there is a very real concern that people could get quite nasty if the time was wrong or if two babies were born very close together.

[ image: Midwives at the Southampton hospital will use precision timing to avoid arguments]
Midwives at the Southampton hospital will use precision timing to avoid arguments
"There is a belief that it could be very financially rewarding to have the first baby, so to avoid any disputes or problems the midwives will time deliveries to the millisecond."

Specialists have already warned parents that aiming for a New Year birth is ill-advised.

They say hospitals will have enough to do coping with the additional pressures from millennium celebrations.

Dealing with a mini baby boom on 1 January is not likely to be a welcome addition to health professionals' workload, they say.

And as emergency facilities could well be stretched to their limits, there simply may not be the staff to handle births.

Optimum date for conception

This weekend is thought by some to be the optimum time to conceive a would-be millennium baby.

[ image: Professor Lord Robert Winston: Warns it may be too late]
Professor Lord Robert Winston: Warns it may be too late
ITV will be broadcasting Birth Rate 2000 - a night of romantic films and reports on the race for the first baby of the year that hopes to get couples in the mood.

But others are not so sure a millennium baby can be planned.

Professor Lord Robert Winston, a leading fertility specialist, has said it is already too late for some couples.

And midwives have warned that mothers have only a 4% chance of giving birth on 1 January, however carefully they plan.

Even so, the number of births around 1 January 2000 is expected to be as much as 20% higher than average.

Statistics for confirmed pregnancies will be published in July, and will give a clearer picture of how many births to expect as 1999 becomes 2000.

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