Can barometric pressure drop cause spontaneous labor?

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ST. LOUIS – Nurses and doctors will tell you that bad weather brings an increase in patients when it comes to labor and deliveries. But is there any scientific evidence to support the big changes in barometric pressure causing this?

“It’s most likely a complete wives tale. However, there have been studies done,” Andrea Weber, a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital, said. “But if you’re a nurse or any type of medical professional, you know that wives tales, there are many, and we hold fast to those sometimes to just explain how our day is or how our nights are (and) why they are here.”

Weber said, wives tale or not, she feels there’s something to it.

“So, clearly we hold fast to that bad weather, rainy weather, full moons, I’m sure everybody’s heard that rumor or wives tale, but yeah, typically weather we do find that it does play a little part in that,” she said.

The last storm system earlier in the week may have brought a rise in patients.

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“I looked up our admission numbers and our delivery numbers from the 9th and the 10th when the barometric was just lower and we did have slightly elevated admission numbers,” Weber said. “On a typical dayshift, it might be anywhere from like 30 to 40 and we were in the mid-to-upper 40s. So, yes.”

Michelle Gragg, a certified nurse midwife with Mercy Hospital, agrees.

“I totally believe in this,” she said. “And I definitely look at the weather and if I think it’s going to be a busy shift, I know it’s based on whether or not we’re going to get rain and what the weather’s going to do.”

Gragg says stress and anxiety may play a role in the number of calls she receives from patients ahead of bad weather, but she believes there’s more to it than just that.

“But I definitely think we get more medical reasons why people need to be here because they are either in labor or their water has broken—not so much for snow, but definitely for rain,” Gragg said.

And while there’s no clear-cut scientific evidence of causation between barometric pressure drops and spontaneous labor, it would make sense if that were the case.

“We don’t know exactly what causes labor at what time. If we did, everybody would be happy, and we’d be able to control when they go into labor,” Gragg said. “But I think also it’s a closed system in the uterus around the baby, so it’s basically a bubble, a sac around the baby that’s closed, so I do think pressure can affect that.”

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