Photoperiod, temperature, and regional patterns of conceptions in the USA

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Abstract

Twenty-two years of monthly values of birth data for the USA, 1967 through 1988, were analyzed by visual inspection. The data were transformed to remove the influence of length of month and of linear trend, and the values were lagged 9 months to approximate the time of conception. Then, 11-year monthly averages were obtained and plotted as standard scores. Thus two 11-year sets of data were independently analyzed, providing the opportunity of replication. Four distinct temporal patterns were found, differing in month of occurrence of the initial trough and peak and the relative sizes of the two troughs; these characteristics of the temporal pattern change systematically with latitude in the eastern and midwestern states. Data from two other continents, the United Kingdom and Australia, also were analyzed using the same method and found to exhibit a temporal pattern during the year similar to the northern states of the USA. Two biologically relevant variables, temperature and photoperiod, were considered as possible controllers and regulators of the annual rhythmicity. Comparisons of the trends in conceptions with these environmental variables, and inspections of the temperatures and photoperiods at which peaks and troughs in conceptions were found, indicated that these environmental variables could not account for the annual rhythmicity in conceptions.