Statistics {General vs. Specific to You}

Birth Statistics

I see people asking for or citing research and statistics all the time. I’m gonna put my flame suit on before I let you know how I feel about this. OK, ready. I think it’s a load of crap. Research, most of the time, is biased and/or read completely wrong. Statistics come from said research. Not only that, but what does research on someone else have anything to do with ME? Or you?!

We have a nasty habit of comparing ourselves to others. If you think about it, this starts at birth when we weigh and measure our babies. Why does it matter how much they weigh? They are just themselves. Oh that baby is big at 10 pounds or small at 6 pounds!!! Says who?! That baby was and is the perfect size for him!

How about having our children continually weighed and measured to be put into a certain percentile. This always gets me. Who are you comparing your child to and why?! It continues throughout our lives. Comparing our bodies, weight, facial features, boyfriends, girlfriends, cars, houses, etc.

After pondering this phenomenon, I realized the only person I can compare my births with, statistically, are with myself! I have birthed 5 children and here are MY statistics if I were to have another baby. I think they are as accurate as any other statistics and research about birth (for me).

I have 3 girls, 2 boys, so I have a 60% chance of having another girl and %40 chance of having a boy* (see comments)

My births have been 40% cesarean and 60% VBA2Cs, but 60% medicated and 40% unmedicated

A breech baby is a %20 possibility

Out of four VBAC’s…I have a ‘success’ rate of 75%

When left alone to birth I have a 100% chance of a vaginal birth

I go into labor naturally and birth healthy ‘post date’s between 42 1/2 to 44 weeks 100% of the time

My placentas have nourished my babies until birth 100% of the time

I have a 20% chance of a painless vaginal birth and an 80% chance of it hurting like a mother…

I have a 100% chance of having prodromal labor for at least a week and up to 6 weeks prior to birth

I have a 100% chance of having a labor between 20-72 hours long

I will 100% of the time listen to my intuition and fall completely and madly in love with my baby

Life doesn’t happen in a randomized, double blind way. It’s life. It’s birth. Birth is as safe as life gets.

β€œIt is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.” ~ Marcia Angell, MD

With all that said, even still, every pregnancy, baby and birth are different! Don’t get caught up on statistics. Your body is designed to grow a baby and to birth. MOST of the time, when left alone and trusted, birth works wonderfully. It can be the hardest, but most empowering experience of your life. Interventions are usually unnecessary, but when they TRULY are needed, they are a blessing. Find the support that is right for you, listen to your body and intuition always and enjoy this incredible journey!

Baby, Birth*Picture from precious Bellies Doula Services and Childbirth Classes


  • Danie

    Thank you for this. It is the support I’ve received from your blog/community and other like it that is allowing me to truly find myself in this crazy world of pregnancy/childbirth/parenting.

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t mind statistics. I don’t mind numbers.

    I mind people who hide behind them to try to prove some misguided point… who live in denial that studies and results are skewed to suit a particular purpose. I mind people who lean on them to decide which move is worth making. Those people are living in fear and allowing others to paint the illusion that is their reality for them.

    Thanks for your post, BWF.

  • Josie

    Technically you have a 50% chance of having a girl and 50% chance of having a boy – the odds don’t change based on what you’ve already had. πŸ™‚

      • Jodi

        Technically however that percentile is based on your husband as it is the spermatozoa which determines gender, you personally have a 100% chance of having girls as each ovum only has 1 ‘X’ chromosome. But statistics being statistics, it’s a moot point anyway as on your own you’d have a 0% chance of having any of either gender.
        Meh, I alway take this quote I heard once and bring it out in any debate on stats anyway: “75.332% of statistics are made up on the spot.” ~ unknown

      • Erin

        That’s not you, that’s your husband. Historically, my husband has a 100% chance of having boys, though technically it’s a 50% chance at every conception…unless all he’s got is y-chromosome sperm.

      • Wendy

        My husband and I saw a sciene/health show once that talked about how no matter what ‘chromosomes’ the sperm had, the woman and the amount of acidity or alkalinity of her vaginal secretions had more to do with determining the sex of the baby, (since I believe more acidic would kill off the male sperm chromosomes). My husband loves to tell people about this one, since it takes the ‘fault’ off of him, we had 5 daughters… (finally when our youngest 5th daughter was 5 yrs old – we had a son). πŸ˜‰

      • Gina

        A woman’s vaginal acidity at the time of the sperm entering, how close to ovulation you try to conceive, the ability of a man’s sperm withstand the acidity of a woman’s vagina, and how many X and Y chromosomes the male expels are also contributing factors. Different woman have different acidity of their vaginas… some are very acidic and some are not very acidic, and most are right in the middle. X sperm have been proven to withstand acidity MUCH better than Y sperm (hence the reason some woman have ONLY boys or ONLY girls no matter what they do to try to have a baby of the different sex ). And some men have more virile sperm. Also, X sperm typically move slower but can stay alive longer, where Y sperm move faster, but die more quickly. This means that when you try to conceive can predetermine the sex of the baby (to an extent). If you have sex the DAY of ovulation, more likely you will have a boy since the Y sperm will get to the egg faster. If you have sex 2-3 days before ovulation then you will probably have a girl since most of the Y sperm will die off before the egg is released.
        Just saying… its never a 50-50 chance. There are too many determining factors when it comes to what sex a baby will turn out to be. πŸ™‚

  • Susan

    Actually, if you have several of one sex and none of the others, your odds of having the opposite sex significantly decline. I have a baby with cleft lip and palate, and the geneticist we saw said that since we had four boys, the fourth being the cleft-affected child, the chances of us ever having a girl are like 1%. It’s possible, but not probable, based on what we were told. There’s something about his system and my system and how they interact that promote the survival of Y-carrying chromosomes and thus…we produce boys. And we actually have a greater chance of having another baby with a cleft than we do of having a girl!

    Great article! It’s important to look at YOUR statistics. For example, our babies average 10 lbs. And that’s normal for us. And it’s OK, and yes, I had those big babies naturally, out of the hospital. I even caught one of them myself. It’s what we are made to do!

    • Beth

      Our first five are boys. Our six and seventh are girls. My gut tells me number eight, should we continue, will be a girl. You just never know.

  • Angie

    So needed to hear this today. For the last three weeks I’ve been a bit frazzled after my daughters one year check-up. She was 8 lbs at birth and at 1 year is ONLY 17 lbs, which puts her in the 5% for weight. She eats a ton (and still nursing 6-8 time/day) looks happy and chubby but is just small. Her doc said “I’m not going to diagnose her as failure to thrive but technically anyone under 10% on the chart is just that. I would, however, like to see her put on some weight. Focus on feeding her more and bring her back in two weeks to be weighed again.” Well I didn’t go back. Before being told that she was “underweight” I hadn’t even thought about it. Sure people comment all the time that she is so small and petite. I think there is something for tracking a child to know if they are developing well. But it needs to be on their “chart”. So thank you.

    • Kimberly

      Yikes Angie…I would have cried if someone said that to me! My oldest is the same way…she’s always been petite, always been tiny, and I think she’ll continue to be that way for quite some time. She’s been under 15% for her height and weight since she was a couple months old. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I just kept reminding myself that my baby was meeting milestones, thriving and a happy baby, so I had nothing to worry about.

    • Jennifer

      Oh my! They said she was technically failing to thrive! πŸ™ My son fell OFF the growth chart at 9 months. As in, 1% or below. He also weighed 8lbs at birth. Thankfully my doctor didn’t say those words to me. We just worked to feed him more (he was in a “i dont wanna eat or nurse i wanna play” phase. So i fed him like a mad woman and in a week he gained some weight and has continued. If my doctor had said that i would have broken down right there in the office. You’re a strong mom. Also remember that the WHO growth charts are for breastfed babies, unlike the ones most peds use. but i agree, babies all grow at their own rate.

      • Amber A

        My 6th child was labeled failure to thrive too, she was 7lbs 8oz at birth and just wasn’t growing fast enough for them. All my other kids were huge, like my 7th is almost 6mo and already over 20lbs, my 6th finally hit 24lbs now at 2 1/2yrs. we did do some blood work at one but our ped just thought she found the short genes from my FIL’s side. she will be 5ft maybe in adulthood, but that is her and she doesn’t let it slow her down!

    • Wendy

      When I had my 3rd baby – 6 lbs (my 1st was 7 lbs 4 oz, and my 2nd was 5 lbs 9 oz) so, “average” for me… she was then, a little sleepy and a little slow to gain weight in the months following her birth, however when they harrassed me and ‘made’ me bring her in for weekly weight checks from 2 months on. She was 5th% in weight and 95% in height. I tried to tell them that her father was tall and thin, and that it was difficult to force feed her any more than she was (After spending a bit of time really working on getting her to nurse better and get the fatty hind milk). They still tried to insist that I give her formula as well daily. I really struggled to continue to nurse her. By 9 months we were down to dr visits every other week. Then we moved and managed to stop the weight check visits. We managed to nurse for 13 months (should have gone longer, but I was not as well informed about breastfeeding as I should have been at the time).
      Today she is 15 yrs old she is 5 ft. 11 inches tall and she wears a size double 00 pants, with a 36 in inseam. I’d say that despite all those dumb weight and height charts she was exactly who and what she was meant to be and still is today… a long/tall skinny girl!
      That year of fighting and struggle to try to continue doing what I knew was right for my child and to resist giving in and ‘just giving her formula’ as I was strongly encouraged by the medical professionals, helped me grow as a mother in knowing what was best for my children and our family.

  • Amy Peterson

    If you are talking purely statistically, the odds of the sex of a baby are exactly like the odds of flipping a coin. For each birth it is 50/50 for boy or girl. The odds do change with more births though. Say you have two girls already. While the odds for that third birth are still 50/50, the odds of having 3 girls in a row are much lower. The probability of getting any specific combination of length n is 0.5n = 1/2n. For n = 3, this is 0.125 = 1/8. So you only have a 12.5% chance of having a third girl, even though the odds that the baby will be a girl are still 50/50. I know this seems obtuse, but this is exactly why we have to be so careful when we read statistical “evidence”.

    • Lyndsay

      Actually no…The other girls have no effect on what the sex of the next baby. It’s just like roulette- you can hit red 20 times in a row and the next spin still has the same odds to hit red as the first spin. That is why people lose money- they keep betting on red!!!

  • Melinda

    Angie my little girl is 17 lbs too (almost 11 months) but her BMI is great as I’m sure your daughter’s is too. Really that’s what’s important. I get mad at myself, sometimes I find myself comparing her to her brother who was a chubby baby but is now a lean toddler. But really I like her being tiny. My mom is only 4′ 10″ she perhaps she will be like her. The charts are kinda annoying. All you have to do is look at your kid and you know if they’re well nourished, as long as there is no weight loss, as long as they progress and have a healthy BMI. What did that doctor think that your little girl would miraculously gain a few pounds in a few weeks. I don’t think I would have gone back either.

  • Claire

    There are a lot of different kinds of research, some which are more quantitative than others (some research does not involve numbers or statistics at all). While it is important not to define life–in all of its unique permutations–by statistics, I think research is an incredibly important part of our world. There are many ways to try and tell the future, to predict the outcomes of situations in which we find ourselves. Medical research is just one way to try and know what will happen. We all want to try and shape our situation for the best, and in medical research, the hope is that by looking at the most people possible, we will get a better idea of what that one person’s future may look like. While everyone is unique, we are all still very similar. It is our fundamental similarities that make these predictions make sense–and make them useful tools. Maybe we should be encouraged to spend more time trying to understand research and statistics in order to know how to use this knowledge but not let it overwhelm us or define our lives?

  • Jodi

    According to standard BMI many people are over/underweight who shouldn’t be. I saw an episode broadcast here in Australia where Jamie Oliver spoke of BMIs; he took a (by sight and BMI) slender, supposedly healthy man and an overweight, ‘unhealthy’ man of the same age. He then took them to have an MRI, the surprise was that the supposedly unhealthy man was healthier than the slender, as the slender had a higher concentration of liver fats undetectable by BMI. All body mass index does is promote insecurities and unhealthy eating habits.
    If I took indexes, statistics and ‘group feeling’ into it, my son would be overweight for his age. He is two years old and 16.5kg, just 2kg (if that) shy of his four-year-old sister’s weight. But I know he’s healthy, and I know he has good eating habits; my kids are full of energy, they woke before me one morning and helped themselves to breakfast. In the pantry we had all sorts of goodies; cookies, potato chips, even some chocolate, but I found they’d helped themselves to one mandarin each, one apple each and a carrot each. You can’t tell me that with those temptations in front of them and yet choosing for themselves fruit and veg for breakfast without mum and dad, that the above eating habits will cause my wee boy to be overweight?
    Sod the stats. Gut instinct, every time.

  • Rhoda

    I have had two sons via caesarean so far, both at 42 weeks (dunno if it was 42 weeks from LMP or OV, just 42 weeks by US dates). Can you tell me; when you say you were 44 weeks, is that 44 weeks from LMP or OV or US dates?…. aaaaaannnnd….. this pregnancy I know my OV date, should I get a US and pick the later of the two dates so that the docs will give me more time at the business end of pregnancy….. or not get the US at all? Just wondering what BWF and everyone thinks. Thank you all. <3

    • Mrs. BWF

      For me they were from ultrasound or date of ovulation. Every woman and pregnancy is different. Go to a good sonographer if it’s needed and discuss it with your OB/midwife! πŸ™‚

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