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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK


Millennium baby goes against doctors' orders

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

The media is trivialising pregnancy with hype over the millennium baby, health experts have warned.

This weekend is said to be the perfect time to conceive the first baby of the next millennium.

James Westhead: Campaigners say a baby is for life, not just for the Millennium
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.

Television programmes dedicated to getting couples in the mood will set the tone on Saturday night.

High street chemist Superdrug is offering free pregnancy testing kits to would-be parents over the next few weeks.

And manufacturers have already reported a surge in sales of folic acid, recommended for women trying for a baby, and ovulation testing kits.

But doctors and the Church of England have warned that such an ambition is foolish.


The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has issued a statement on the matter.

It said: "Bringing a new life into the world is an important decision for any couple.

"The college is concerned that sections of the media are trivialising this matter for public entertainment."

The college stresses that the maximum chance of a healthy couple conceiving in any one month is only one in three, and that only four per cent of pregnant women deliver on their due date.

It says pregnancy should not be entered into lightly and complications are not uncommon.

Twenty per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage and 2% of babies are born with congenital abnormalities, it warns.

Professor James Drife is junior vice-president of the college.

He said: "I am very concerned that pregnancy is being treated as a game."

The Family Planning Association has begun a campaign against the media hype, based on the theme: "A baby is for life, not just for the millennium."

Preparations for competition

Health workers are also worried about the staffing implications of a potential baby boom.

And there are fears the race to have the first New Year baby could lead to a rise in Caesarian and induced births.

Some health care workers are not taking any risks when it comes to the millennium baby.

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.

[ 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
They fear the "race" could turn nasty and are turning to stopwatches as a preventive measure.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "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.

"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."

ITV will be broadcasting Birth Race 2000 over the weekend - 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.

Classic FM is also hosting a passion night.

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.

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

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