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Nine months after winter storms, some area hospitals expect a spike in births
Yet that theory was quashed in a 1970 paper by Richard Udry, a demographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He found no statistically significant upswing in births associated with the blackout. "It is evidently pleasing to many people," he concluded, "to fantasize that when people are trapped by some immobilizing event which deprives them of their usual activities, most will turn to copulation."
Births don't increase during full moons, either, said Daniel Caton, a professor of physics and astronomy at Appalachian State University. Though he has worked to disprove that myth, he says such tales have a never-ending shelf life.
"It's just kind of fun to do," Caton said, "and our brains like to make simple deductions, simple predictions."
So what to make of the fact that Inova hospitals are expecting a jump in deliveries over the next few months? At the Loudoun branch, an "unusual" number of couples are rushing to book childbirth classes and tours over the next three months, said Cindy O'Hara, manager of obstetrics community services.
Then there's the Family Health and Birth Center in Northeast. They're hiring more employees to carry out a potentially "record-setting" 35 deliveries in August, said general director Cynthia Flynn. She said the volume is a significant increase for the center, which normally oversees up to 25 deliveries monthly.
Flynn doesn't necessarily disagree with statisticians who say catastrophe-induced baby booms are a myth. But maybe the fact-or-fiction debate depends on whom you ask.
"When there was that big blackout on the East Coast, there was this speculation there was going to be this big bump nine months later," she said. "If you talk to any nurse anywhere, they say it happened. If you talk to demographers who did the statistics, it didn't. Whether our bump is statistically significant, I don't know."
Still, every myth is born somewhere.
When Nancy Bonnell, 31, thinks of her baby girl due next month, she recalls the December snow that she and her husband, Brian, endured: "We lived in the apartment and had nothing to do."
So they cooked in their Derwood home, they grew restless and then they -- well, you know.
The couple had been trying to have a baby and originally thought it might happen during a post-Christmas vacation to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. They could nickname her "Cookie Girl," they thought.
Then Bonnell learned during the second week of January that she was expecting. She deduced that she had conceived sometime during the snowstorm. Time for a new nickname.
"It was more like 'Snow Angel,' " she said.