Even for San Francisco’s busiest labor and delivery unit, nearly 40 babies born in 48 hours is a “flurry of activity,” says Yuan-Da Fan, M.D., chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Van Ness Campus hospital.
This surge in deliveries has the team there wondering: Are they finally seeing the much-talked-about pandemic baby boom? It may be too soon to tell.
Boom or Bust?
Historically there are “baby booms” (periods marked by a significant increase of birth rate) after events, like snowstorms, where people are homebound for days or weeks at a time.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and society was encouraged to shelter in place to help slow the virus’ spread, experts surely thought we were in for a newborn boom. They pointed to calendars and said to look to the end of the year for more babies. It’s playing out differently.
“People hunkered down and weren’t sure what to make of COVID-19 in the beginning, particularly couples thinking about family planning,” said Shital Patel, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at CPMC. “They put everything on hold. Then, in the summertime, restrictions loosened a bit, but people still weren’t traveling. That, on top of more flexible work schedules and feelings of ‘maybe we’re in a better position to have a baby now,’ well, there started to be an uptick in pregnancies.”
“We’re now seeing the effects of this,” said Dr. Fan.
Even Patel herself is pregnant and due in a few weeks. “I guess I’m part of this boom,” she laughs.
New Life Coming Into The World
Labor and delivery nurses at CPMC said they’ve seen a noticeable rise in births since mid-March into early April of 2021, citing as many as double the number of babies born in some shifts as are expected on an average day.
According to Dr. Fan, the same week last year (April 4-11) saw an average of 10-12 babies born daily, whereas now they’re averaging more, even one day with 18 deliveries and the next day with 19 deliveries. “That’s a lot,” he says. “We’re really busy. The hallways are bustling and we’re taking good care of everybody.”
For the last year, Dr. Fan says CPMC, like other hospitals across Northern California, adapted their operations and visitation guidelines for birthing mothers because of COVID-19.
Today, CPMC, part of the Sutter Health’s integrated network, now allows birthing moms two support people during labor.
Bump in Births On The Horizon?
“It’s probably still a little too soon to tell,” says Dr. Patel.
“We’re seeing patients coming in who feel more comfortable having their babies now that COVID-19 is more understood, more under control, and we’re hearing of more couples trying to conceive now, too,” said Dr. Fan. “It’s good news.”