THE North-East is in the grip of a baby boom, with experts blaming the severe winter weather nine months ago.

Maternity unit staff at the 1,000-bed James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, say they are in the middle of a big surge in births.

Things became so hectic on Saturday that the hospital closed its maternity unit to new admissions for two hours.

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A senior doctor said the only explanation she could think of for the hospital’s biggest surge in births in recent years was the severe weather that gripped the region nine months ago.

Many people were unable to get to work because of thick snow and ice and many of the babies being born now were conceived during the worst winter for 30 years.

The hospital normally expects about 300 babies a month.

Dr Helen Simpson, a consultant obstetrician at James Cook, said: “In August, we had 402. Up to September 21, we had 317 deliveries and we are predicting 450 for the whole month.

“That is a big peak, bigger than we would have expected.

If you look at the next quarter, it is back down to normal.”

In January, midwives and economists predicted a major surge in births in the autumn because of the big freeze, which kept millions of Britons indoors for days on end. A spokeswoman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said their maternity units had also been extremely busy.

A spokeswoman for the National Childbirth Trust said: “Anyone expecting an addition to the family in the next few weeks is not alone.

“September is often one of our busiest months, and this autumn we have seen a spike in antenatal class bookings.

“Some people have put the bumper crop of births down to a combination of the financial gloom and a particularly severe winter.”

For information about NCT antenatal classes, call 0300- 330-0770.