Researchers from Cambridge University have found that the risk of death is high in babies who are born outside working hours when senior clinicians are not available.
The study assessed one million births over 20 years and found that babies born outside of the 9-5 working hours between Monday and Friday had a greater risk of death than those born within these hours.
The researchers analyzed 539 neonatal deaths in Scotland and found that the risk of death was 4.2 per 10,000 live births during the working week, rising to 5.6 per 10,000 during weekends.
Experts feel there may be several reasons for this occurrence, "For example, it could be explained by variation in staffing at different times of day, such as the total number of staff or the profile of staff, in particular the immediate availability of senior clinicians," said lead researcher Dr Gordon Smith, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Cambridge.
Lack of oxygen was the main cause of death in 50% of the cases. Other causes included fatigue among available staff.
Dr Smith concluded by saying, "Improving the level of clinical care for women delivered out of normal working hours might reduce overall rates of perinatal death."
The details appear online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).