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No COVID baby boom?

U.S. Census Bureau data indicates births actually declined during the pandemic

JRMC Baby.jpg
Lindsay Clarksean, a registered nurse in Jamestown Regional Medical Center's Family BirthPlace, cares for an infant. Overall, births in the U.S. have declined in the last five years, said Emily Woodley, Family BirthPlace manager. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that births in the U.S. declined during the coronavirus pandemic.
Contributed / Jamestown Regional Medical Center

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — It typically takes up to about 18 months after a catastrophic or world event before an increase in births is seen, according to Emily Woodley, Family BirthPlace manager at Jamestown Regional Medical Center.

Woodley said there is a misconception that it takes about nine months after an event to see an increase in births. She said other factors deter women from getting pregnant during unstable times.

“They want to make sure the economy is good, and they want to make sure that they are able to care for another child,” she said. “… Anything major in your economy actually ends up trickling down and affecting birth rates is what they are showing.”

Overall, births in the U.S. have declined in the last five years, she said.

“Every year they keep going down,” she said.

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Data indicates that U.S. births declined during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Anne Morse with the U.S. Census Bureau. Morse in September wrote a story about births during the pandemic.

Morse wrote that the number of births in December 2020 and January 2021 was unusually low and very likely the result of the pandemic.

Monthly data show a 7.66% decline in births in the U.S. in December 2020 compared to December 2019, and January births declined by 9.41% from 2020 to 2021, she wrote.

Births also declined in February 2021 compared to February 2020, and the decline slowed by March 2021 as births declined 0.15% between March 2020 and March 2021, she wrote.

“Because this pandemic has gone on for such a length of time, we at (Jamestown Regional Medical Center) at least have not seen a baby boom come out of it,” Woodley said. “A lot of people thought being stuck indoors, having more time on their hands, those kinds of things would result in a baby boom. We have not been seeing that happen.”

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Morse wrote that the largest percentage of births after the pandemic was declared would be born during or after the first week of December 2020.

“Evidence that the pandemic affected fertility can be seen starting in December 2020,” she wrote.

In December 2020, there were 285,138 U.S. births, which is 23,664 fewer than in December 2019, Morse wrote.

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Woodley said Jamestown Regional Medical Center has not seen an increase in births during the pandemic — although the number of new infants in each year from 2019 to 2021 are close. The medical center saw 328 births in 2019, 319 in 2020 and 331 in 2021.

“Jamestown has a pretty stable population,” she said. “Anytime you have a stable population you are not going to really see a whole lot of increase in numbers.”

Woodley said there was an expectation that there would be an increase in births in November and December 2020.

“Then maybe we would have seen a baby boom from that time like this fall, and we also haven’t seen that,” she said.

In November and December 2021, Jamestown Regional saw a slight increase in births with 32 and 33, respectively, compared to the same months in 2019 and 2020.

Other factors

The reasons for a decline in births aren’t just because of the pandemic. Woodley said women are waiting until they are older to have children because they are focusing on their careers and getting married later in life.

“If you don’t start having kids until you are in your 30s you probably aren’t going to have as many as if you started in your 20s, so families are smaller too,” she said.

Woodley said the number of teenagers having children has gone down, which is showing that they might be more responsible and are taking better preventative measures.

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In 2018, Jamestown Regional Medical Center saw 369 births. Prior to 2018, the center was seeing more people who worked in the western North Dakota Oil Patch but were living in the Jamestown area.

“That in the last few years has decreased as well,” Woodley said.

Other factors that affect the decline in births in the U.S. include a seasonal pattern and the total number of births declining every year since 2008, except for 2014, Morse wrote. She wrote that the number of births increases in the spring and peaks in the summer before declining in the fall. The number of births is lowest in the winter.

Morse wrote the number of daily births decreased on average 0.96% a year between 2010 and 2019. The average number of daily births in 2020 was 4.06% lower than in 2019.

“There was a noticeable decline in births especially in the summer,” she wrote. “The summer decline suggests 2020 may have already been on track to experience a sharper decline in births than in previous years, even without the pandemic.”

Woodley said many of Jamestown Regional’s birth numbers come from people from rural areas. She said people in their 20s and 30s are moving to their home communities.

“Whether that is they come from farms then move back to do farming or whether they are taking over some kind of business, or they just want to get back in that smaller community,” she said. “I think it is for a variety of reasons.”

When the pandemic is over, Woodley said she hopes the birth numbers can maintain where they are at and that people will feel like they are stable and wanting to grow or start a family.

“Of course, we would like to grow numbers but it is probably more realistic to not go down in numbers and to maintain,” she said. “Then of course, anytime you can bring businesses or population into your community, you are going to grow.”

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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