Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
NHS warning over millennium baby
NHS staff fear a New Year baby boom
The media hype over the millennium baby could put additional pressure on the NHS at a time when services are traditionally stretched, warn health workers.
The hype is reaching its peak this weekend which has been designated the best time for conceiving a New Year baby, although some fertility experts disagree.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says the risks of complications are higher at weekends and on bank holidays because staffing is stretched.
"Staffing and back-up arrangements in hospitals on Friday 31st December 1999 are likely to be similar to those on any other public holiday," they warn.
The Royal College of Midwives is already predicting a 20% increase in births for the millennium, although the British Medical Association warns that it will be three months before hospitals will really know how many babies to expect.
This is when women have their first scan. They are also most at risk of losing their babies in the first three months of pregnancy.
Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea Hospital in London says it expects an increase, but will not decide staffing levels for at least a month.
The RCOG is also worried that the race to have the first millennium baby may lead to some births being induced.
"The College would consider this highly undesirable unless there are medical indications," it said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association said it was unlikely NHS doctors would induce babies or offer Caesarian sections unless there were good medical reasons.
"But we have no idea what private clinics will do," she said.
It is beginning a poster campaign on Monday which advises couples to think twice before trying for a baby and not to be drawn into the media hype.
Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said she understood health workers' concerns about a potential baby boom.
But she believes the millennium baby craze is a media invention and that a big baby boom is unlikely come 1 January.
"We need to get the issue into perspective," she said.
"There has been an enormous amount of media hype. I suppose media bosses sat around a few months ago and thought it would be a brilliant hook."
She said some people might be attracted by having a baby with the birth date 1/1/2000, but felt most couples would prefer to crack open the champagne at New Year rather than spend it on a labour ward.
"People are by and large far too sensible to be carried away with all this hype.
"They take the idea of planning families very seriously. It is insulting to people in general to suggest they will be somehow carried away by the gimmickry of a birth date."
The PR consultant Max Clifford has been speculating that the parents of the first millennium baby could net themselves a fortune.
Family planning experts say there could be huge legal battles over who is the first baby.
One Southampton hospital has issued stopwatches to midwives to clock them in.
The number of babies born in England and Wales varies from day to day, but on average around one was born per minute in 1997.
Ann Furedi said: "Lots of babies are born every midnight hour.
"The overwhelming majority of women in labour will want their midwife to be concerned that the baby is delivered safely and is well rather than to be poised over a stopwatch.
"And the idea that you can hold back a birth until midnight has struck is slightly incredible for anyone who has experienced child birth."