Baby boom or bust: Are Utahns having more babies during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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(ABC4) — The COVID-19 pandemic has created a “new normal” which involves far more Americans working from and staying home.

With couples cooped up at home together over the past nine months, an obvious question is whether or not a COVID-19 baby boom is on the horizon.

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According to medical professionals, the answer is no. In fact, Utah, along with the nation, is seeing a baby bust, or decrease in the birth rate.

“I think it’s easy to think there’s going to be a bunch of people at home without anything to do and we’re going to see this big baby boom. But the reality is, as with previous pandemics, when there’s uncertainty or concern- both financial and with respect to health- we actually usually see a slight decrease in the birth rate,” Sean Esplin, Senior Medical Director for Women’s Health at Intermountain, says.

According to Esplin, the decrease in births is obvious, but not significant, with only a decrease of one or two percentage points.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Apart from the fact that more people are experiencing financial insecurity, Esplin says another reason for the drop in birth rate could be that women are concerned about the safety of giving birth during a pandemic.

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However, Esplin says that people can have a safe pregnancy during the pandemic as long as they are taking the correct precautions.

“I hope people will hear me when I say that I think people can have babies safely at this time if they work together with their midwife or their physician that’s taking care of them,” he says.

Esplin says that comes from knowing more about the virus and how it works.

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“We know that the virus is not crossing the placenta,” he says. “It’s not harming babies while in the uterus, although there are some complications that are a little more common when you’re pregnant and have COVID-19.”

And because of that, the Intermountain hospitals that Esplin represents have been taking certain safety precautions when it comes to women giving birth, such as limiting the number of visitors and requiring that both pregnant women and health workers are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

“We have gone to great lengths to make sure that people are safe in the hospital, and we are actually able to provide what we think is very safe in terms of accommodating people’s concerns about having their partners there,” Esplin says.

ABC4 asked Esplin if the economic downturn could result in an eventual baby boom due to a resulting lack of access to contraceptives.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest if everyone has access to good healthcare, and that includes contraception,” he says. “Clearly people who are able to plan when the right time is to have a baby- they’re able to dedicate the resources and the effort and everything they need to do that. They’re not being drawn in a lot of different directions.”

However, Esplin says he doesn’t expect us to see a baby boom because of lack of access to contraceptives. Rather, he expects that the birth rate will go up again as people become accustomed to the “new normal.”

“… I think as we’ve become more comfortable with the new normal we’re living now, it’s making us feel more stable,” he says. “We know what’s going to happen in the near future. I think that might lead to people feeling more comfortable making that decision. We’re starting to get this glimmer of hope that’s, hey, I think we can get through this.”

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