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.
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.
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.
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.