ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With lockdowns and more time spent at home, many thought there was going to be a baby boom during the pandemic. However, it may be looking more like a baby bust. Birth rate data from 29 states show a roughly 7% decrease in births in December 2020, which is about nine months after COVID-19 was labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The decline doesn’t surprise one New Mexico doctor.
“Because everybody was at home, you know, hanging out, couldn’t go outside, lockdown, you know, of course, that makes you think well, there could be a baby boom. But what we actually know from previous times of economic crisis is that there’s just the opposite, it ends up being a baby bust,” Dr. Eve Espey, Professor, and Chair of the Department of OB/GYN and Family Planning Fellowship Director at the University of New Mexico said. “And we have good evidence from 2008, the recession of 2008, the same thing happened, that birth rates really went down.”
As national birth rates are trending down, Dr. Espey said UNMH saw a slight decrease in birth rates too. Birth rates at UNMH in December 2020 were less than 1% lower than the birth rates in December 2019 and 21% lower than December 2018. In January 2021 birth rates were about 10% lower than January 2020 and about the same as January 2019.
“We’re not surprised, we’re happy we have not seen more of a decline and we’re really committing to providing a great experience for those who you know, are choosing to have a baby with us,” Dr. Espey said. She said health and economic uncertainties of the pandemic are impacting family planning.
“People are always sort of in a state of, well maybe I’ll get pregnant, maybe I won’t. The strength of how much somebody wants to prevent a pregnancy, we have seen that increase within our practice,” Dr. Espey said.
Dr. Michael Ruma is a Maternal-Fetal Specialist at Perinatal Associates of New Mexico, which has 10 offices throughout the state and works directly with Presbyterian Hospital. “On average, the birth rate at Presbyterian hospital has been consistently steady despite the pandemic,” he said. But that is already starting to change.
“As far as new pregnancies go, I do think there is an increase particularly in January and February of 2021,” he said. According to Dr. Ruma, PANM has seen a statewide increase of 13% in new pregnancies in January and February 2021 compared to January and February in 2020. So, a boom still may be on the way.
“Based on first trimester ultrasounds, I think we’re on the trend for an increase. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait nine months and see how it’s all going to pan out,” he said. Dr. Ruma said early on, many women had fear of being pregnant during the pandemic but he says there is less fear now that there are vaccines and treatments like Remdesivir.