Unusual baby boom baffles experts

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There’s been a major boom in the numbers of babies born in Oslo and Akershus County before their mothers get to a hospital. Researchers are so puzzled by the boom that they’ve launched a study to find out what’s behind it.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that around 450 babies were born in the Oslo area last year outside hospitals or clinics. Little Jakob Erstad, now age one, was born alongside the busy E6 highway near Kolbotn.

His father Rune Erstad was driving his mother Kjersti as fast as he could from their home in Langhus, south of Oslo, to Ullevål Hospital, the capital’s biggest. It had only been a half-hour since labour pains began, but Jakob was in a hurry.

When Kjersti yelled from the passenger seat that she could fee Jakob’s head on his way out, Rune realized they’d never make it to the hospital. He pulled over, and with the help of a midwife on the mobile telephone line, he took over and did as he was told until an ambulance arrived around 10 minutes later. By then, Jakob was resting on his mother’s chest.

For the Erstads, it was a case of a very quick and, fortunately, trouble-free birth. Medical personnel for Helse Sør-Øst, which administers hospitals in southeast Norway, want to chart the reasons in other cases, though. Fully 69 births in Oslo last year occurred on the way to the hospital.

The health officials wonder whether women are waiting too long to head for a hospital, or whether busy maternity wards are urging women to stay home as long as they think possible, to ease over-crowding at the hospital. Professor Britt-Ingjerd Nesheim, head of Helse Sør-Øst’s pre-natal committee, is leading the research.

“Most don’t give birth in a vehicle, but rather at home before they leave for the hospital,” she told Aftenposten. “We want to find out if that’s also because they waited too long, because they were turned away by the hospital or because of prosaic things like heavy traffic.”

She and Inger-Lise Paulsen are interviewing women involved. “We hope as many as possible take part,” Nesheim said. “There’s nothing dangerous for the babies that come out. It’s those who don’t come out who are at risk.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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