My entire family and many of my friends know never to use the word “quiet” during my on-call shifts. Calm, peaceful and easy are all acceptable words, but never the “Q” word. Anyone who has ever worked on a labor and delivery unit knows that simply mentioning it will send every pregnant woman within a 60-mile radius into labor, causing the day to become insanely busy in a matter of minutes. 

Despite recent emphasis on providing evidence-based health care, the medical profession is full of superstition. Those of us in the baby business may be the most superstitious of all health-care providers. 

Here are just a few of the many superstitions I’ve heard around the hospital:

  • Full moons are notorious for bringing an onslaught of laboring women, many of them peculiar acting
  • Woman in labor will inevitably need to push as soon as you sit down to eat a meal
  • Bad outcomes or unusual emergencies always happen in threes
  • Certain clinicians have a “black cloud” over them and are therefore always busy or encounter more emergent situations than others

Why do so many highly educated medical professionals put any stock in this type of magical thinking? It may be one way of dealing with the fact that despite rigorous training and continued learning, so much of human medicine is really unpredictable and out of our control.

I don’t consider myself an overly superstitious person, but I do believe in certain things that are in no way evidence-based. Big storms and drops in barometric pressure mean busy days in the labor and delivery ward. Redheads are more likely to have postpartum hemorrhages. A full moon may not bring on labor, but it certainly brings out some patient’s insanity. 

I don’t know how much I really believe in the “Q” word, but I do know that I don’t  want to test my luck when I’m on call.

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.