Fail and Shameful Scaremongering

From the Daily Mail:

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And another story aimed at scaring pregnant mothers: ‘Babies born at night in hospital ‘have higher risk of dying‘. Now, we looked at absolute risk and relative risk the other day, so this article is using the same scary trick:

Pregnant women have been warned their delivery is nearly fifty per cent more likely to go wrong if they give birth at night rather than during the day due to poor staff cover.

A worrying study has uncovered a link between drastically higher rates of newborn death and admission to neonatal intensive care for deliveries in the evenings and early hours…

The chances of death in some hospitals could be as much as 47 per cent higher if the babies are born between 6pm and 8am than if they are born during the day. [My emphasis]

So, in order to assess how worried mothers would need to be, and whether this rate is ‘drastically higher’ we have to look at the percentage of children dying:

between 0.05 and 0.09 per cent of infants died during or soon after birth.

Rates were higher among infants born at larger hospitals, but were still less than 1 per cent.

So, as we know, 47% higher relative risk when the absolute risk is less than 1% it not something pregnant mothers should worry about or even consider, yet undoubtedly this article aims to make them do just that. This is pathetic scaremongering and typical of the Daily Mail outlook on life. Just shameful.

9 thoughts on “Fail and Shameful Scaremongering”

  1. another “miracle cancer cure” on front of the express today – at least, when i glimpsed and just shook my head.

  2. Or in even more exact terms assume the absolute rate for all deaths is 1% and those born at night are 50% more at risk. Then the rate for deaths of those born during the day is 0.4% and those at night 0.6% that’s a rise to 6o per 10,000 compared to 40 per 10,000.

    That’s using the highest values, using the lowest ones of 0.05% and 32% we’re talking about a rise to 28 per 10,000 from 21 per 10,000.

    As a comparison the probability of dying from a fall (in the US) is given as roughly 40 per 10,000.

    Of course you have to read the full story to discover that this was a study conducted in the Netherlands and that it only rally applied to the smaller hospitals. But hey why should the facts get in the way of a scary headline?

  3. Oops missed a zero that should be 28 per 100,000 from 21 per 100,000.

    Take the mean from the highest and lowest rates and we ‘expect’ 7 deaths per 10,000 births of which 3 will be of those born during the day and 4 will be those born at night.

  4. It would be interesting to look at this study in detail.

    It is quite likely that the 0.05%/0.09% difference is entirely due to the fact that ‘elective’ births – when the doctors induce or when the decision to do a C-section is made in advance, will be daytime births.

    In most units, the staffing levels are the same day or night.


  5. It’s 4am and my 9month old son (who was born at 10pm) is keeping me awake, so I may be missing something, but isn’t the fact that night-time is two hours longer than day-time in the study also likely to have an impact on the overall figures?

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