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Fecundity and human birth seasonality in Sweden: a register-based study
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4952-3959
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
Number of Authors: 22019 (English)In: Reproductive Health, ISSN 1742-4755, E-ISSN 1742-4755, Vol. 16, article id 87Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: It is well-established that couples' fecundities vary widely. Each couple has a relatively constant monthly probability of conceiving, which can vary from zero to quite high. This underlying probability is usually expressed as the time (number of menstrual cycles) the couple requires to conceive. Couples with high fecundity will, on average, need fewer cycles than couples with low fecundity. It is also well-documented that almost all human populations exhibit seasonal variation in births. Most European countries show seasonal variation that usually peak in the spring and are the lowest during the last quarter of the year. The increasingly strong pattern of depressed birth rates in November and December is likely explained by the December-January cut-off threshold for Swedish pupils' school entry and their parents increasing awareness of the negative effects on school outcomes for children who are juniors in the school-entry cohort they belong to. To actively plan births for a specific time of the year, couples need to have some knowledge of the time required for them to conceive.

Methods: We use the duration between marriage of childless couples and first birth as a proxy measure of couples' fecundity. Based on this time-to-pregnancy measure we study to what extent couples' capacity to conceive affects the seasonality of their second births. We hypothesize that in a society with highly controlled fertility and a strong norm of having at least two children, sub-fertile couples will on average show less seasonal variation in second births. Sub-fertile couples, requiring more time to conceive the first time, will be less likely to try to target a desired birth month for their second child because doing so could jeopardize fulfilling their desired family size. We apply multinomial logistic regressions on 81,998 Swedish couples who married while being childless and subsequently gave birth to at least two children between 1990 and 2012, to investigate fecundity's role in seasonal variation in second births.

Results: We found that seasonal variation in second births was strongly associated with couples' observed fecundity, measured as the duration between marriage formation and first birth. Our results support the hypothesis that sub-fertile couples, requiring more time to conceive the first time, show less seasonal variation in second births. The seasonal variations in second order births among couples with normal fecundity shows some similarities to traditional patterns as seen in agricultural and industrial societies of the past, with high numbers of births during the spring, and low numbers during the last quarter of the year. However, two important differences are notable. The characteristic Christmas peak in September has vanished, and the low birth rates in November and December come out much stronger than in the past.

Conclusions: The birth seasonality among couples with normal fecundity are what we would expect if couples actively plan their births according to the cut-off date for Swedish pupils' school entry. We argue that our findings support the notion that scheduled childbirth is a reality in contemporary sociality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 16, article id 87
Keywords [en]
Human birth seasonality, Register-based study, Fertility, Fecundability, Birth month, Sub-fertility, Second births, Time-to-pregnancy
National Category
Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-171098DOI: 10.1186/s12978-019-0754-1ISI: 000472982200001PubMedID: 31234860OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-171098DiVA, id: diva2:1342772
Available from: 2019-08-14 Created: 2019-08-14 Last updated: 2019-08-14Bibliographically approved

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