TEHRAN

Like many Iranian families, the idea of planning the birth of their first child did not strike Siyawash and his spouse when they married earlier this year.

But when a friend suggested the “magical date” of 9-9-99 in the Iranian calendar, falling this week, the husband and his expecting wife’s excitement about the big event peaked.

Since the due date to deliver the baby was five days after the special date — the 9th of the Iranian month of Azar — the thought of going for a preterm cesarean section crossed their mind.

Their family, however, is no exception.

There is a growing trend in Iran to go for preterm cesarean deliveries on dates considered to be a “good omen.”

As the “magical dates” come after every 11 years, the trend has been seen in previous decades too, according to officials in Iran’s Health Ministry, despite authorities strongly discouraging it on account of the health of newborns.

Nasrin Changezi, the head of the ministry’s maternity health department, warned that it can “lead to serious complications.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, she noted, the “problems could multiply” as some mothers are asymptomatic and delivering babies prematurely could “endanger both the mother and the baby.”

To discourage the trend, Iran’s National Organization for Civil Registration, which is responsible for issuing birth certificates, has relaxed rules to issue birth certificates before and after 9-9-99.

Saifullah Abu Turabi, a spokesperson for the authority, said it parents can get birth certificates of 9-9-99 for children born during the first fortnight of the month of Azar.

He urged families “not to rush” and “prioritize the health and well-being of child and mother,” saying they can apply for the desired certificate even if the babies are born a week before or after.

Health experts say premature deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic are more dangerous than usual, with many cases of mothers and newborns being infected already reported.

Iran is currently grappling with a third wave of the pandemic, with daily infections and fatalities touching record highs every day.

The country is presently under a two-week lockdown as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

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