Hospitals look at birth rates during the pandemic

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — “I think that was a big mystery. I think there was a lot of national attention as to whether or not we’d see a baby boom as a result of COVID,” Dr. J. Manuel Arreguin, Chief OB/GYN of Geisinger’s north region, said.

It’s about nine months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Dr. Arreguin says there are two factors that go into families having babies during a pandemic.

“It’s really almost sort of two categories, obviously the economical consequences of COVID as well as what is the medical science and what are the risks of having a baby as a result of our current understanding of COVID,” Dr. Arreguin said.

He says he’s seen a slight uptick in birth rates so far. Geisinger has started preparing for that uptick.

“We keep track of our statistics month to month and so we can have a good idea of how many babies we’ll deliver this month in comparison to this month in comparison to last month in comparison to a year from now. And so we are certainly increasing our staff or making sure that we have available staff because we’re counting on a little bump,” Dr. Arreguin said.

There has also been an increase in positive STD tests. But, on the other hand, history shows a different trend.

“There’s some data that suggests that whenever you have an economic downturn probably that’s going to be the driver that will cause parents, families, to say this is not the right time to have children. Right, just on the economic side of it. And we saw that in 2008 when we had a big economic downturn,” Dr. Arreguin.

He cites an article by the thinktank Brookings Institution that predicts a decrease in birth rates during this pandemic. Dr. Arreguin says Geisinger facilities have also seen an increase in women requesting contraception.

“Not only were they being proactive about understanding that maybe they were at home a little bit more often and it might link to certain activities, but I’m also going to be very proactive and wise about whether or not this is the best time to have children,” Dr. Arreguin said.

There could also be concern about health impacts of having a baby during a global health crisis.

“We do know that moms that are pregnant and develop COVID, COVID pneumonias, they could be very, very sick. And I think that that’s what’s happening because pregnancy itself is an immunosuppressed state. And if they get an infection like COVID, they might not have the ability to fight these infections,” Dr. Arreguin said.

Eyewitness News also reached out to Lehigh Valley Health Network to see if their hospital systems are seeing similar trends. In a statement, they said “We currently are seeing deliveries and anticipated deliveries that are consistent with both last year’s numbers and this year’s projections. We are not anticipating a surge at this time,”

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