Annual rhythm of human reproduction: I. Biology, sociology, or both?

J Biol Rhythms. Fall 1990;5(3):195-216. doi: 10.1177/074873049000500303.


The annual rhythm of human reproduction was analyzed on the basis of more than 3000 years of monthly birth rates covering 166 regions of the globe. The following variables were used to characterize the annual rhythm of human conception (birth minus 9 months): amplitude, phase of maximum and minimum, phase and length of the time span when rates are above the annual mean (alpha), and the steepest upward slope (delta max) of the curve fitted to the rates. The waveform of the annual rhythm is characteristic for geographical regions (e.g., unimodal or bimodal) and persists as such for many years. In most countries, the onset of alpha coincides with delta max and lies close to the spring equinox. This phase of the rhythm is the most stable over time. In many populations, the rhythm has changed in recent years, specifically in amplitude and phase. The phase of the rhythm depends on latitude, with a 6-month difference between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The latitudinal distribution of amplitudes is less systematic. In spite of the many social influences on timing of conceptions, we conclude that the seasonal component in human reproduction is based on biological factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Rate / trends
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • France
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Statistics as Topic