It's a common old wives' tale that more women go into labor when the moon is full. And it's the story I heard in the labor and delivery wing of a local hospital as I delivered my own child during a full moon many moons ago.
But, Karen Hunsinger, a labor and delivery nurse at WakeMed Raleigh, says it's likely the hospitals weren't packed with more than the usual number of laboring women during last night's full moon. With 19 years of experience delivering babies, she's not seen a surge in births when the moon is its biggest in the sky - an observation backed up by lots of studies.
"The moon doesn't seem to be quite as big a deal as people think it is," said Hunsinger, a mom of three herself. (She notes that though none of her children were born on a full moon, she was. So was her father).
But there's another reason to look to the skies if you're getting close to your due date. When the barometric pressure drops before a storm, Hunsinger said, that's when she and her colleagues know they'll be busy.
"Sometimes we'll notice we are busy on a full moon and we’ll comment on it," Hunsinger said. "But, over the years, it hasn’t seemed like a big thing. It’s not like we’re seeing the full moon and saying, 'Oh no, here it comes.' But, when we see a hurricane coming, it’s like, 'oh, great.'"
Before a big snowstorm or hurricane, for instance, Hunsinger said more women than usual come in because their water has broken or because they have gone into labor. In fact, a colleague in New Bern told Hunsinger that the hospitals there were quiet during Hurricane Matthew, but busy once the storm passed with women who had gone into labor and delivered at home.
As the barometric pressure drops, Hunsinger said, she also sees more women coming in complaining of contractions, which turn out to be Braxton Hicks contractions. Braxton Hicks start early in pregnancy and can sometimes seem like early signs of labor. She'll tell those expecting moms to make sure they are drinking plenty of water.
"If you are dehydrated, your uterus will contract," Hunsinger said.
Big storms, especially when people lose power, also are behind a surge in future births. Hunsinger said she always sees an uptick in births about nine months after a big storm.
For those out there eager to welcome their little one, the No. 1 strategy for starting labor isn't to hope for the next big storm (or a full moon). Hunsinger said it's simple - just end the experience the way your started it - by having sex.
"It tends to work fairly well," Hunsinger said. "It can definitely cause labor."
And for those expecting moms who have tried it all, Hunsinger has a message: "Stay well hydrated. Stay as rested as you can. It will happen. I promise, you won’t be pregnant forever."