Looking around, it seems people have been busy making babies during Covid. A friend of mine gave birth to twins this year, another thirty-something woman I know is pregnant, and so on. It looked like people have been either responding to stress by making babies, or keeping to a preset schedule for their family.
And yet during the last three months of 2020, there were only 53.1 births per 1,000 women in the US, compared to 57.6 in the last quarter of 2019, adding to a general trend in declining birth rates. Overall, during 2020 births in the US added up to 4.3 less than in 2019, and then these rates plummeted during January and February 2021 to 9.3 percent and 10 percent less, respectively. (See NBC source article here.) Where some people opine that the pandemic has been like a war and people have been finding refuge in lovemaking and procreating, it turns out that, in fact, Covid is a crisis that makes people think twice about babies. Except that some partners working from home during this pandemic may find it opportune to have a baby despite the Covid crisis, as it’s the case of one couple, married in January 2020, mentioned in the NBC article.
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If you think about it, with regard to WWII, the baby boom happened after the war, not during its span. We’ll see if there will be a similar one after this pandemic! As it is, article after article in the spring of this year reported a Covid baby bust. So many people lost (some of) their job security in 2020, after all, and so many people working from home struggled with the challenges of caring for their children in the same environment. Then news items appeared about complications during pregnancy and birth, including the risk of severe illness for pregnant women with underlying medical conditions, leading to preterm births. It also appears that the medical community doesn’t yet know much particulars about how newborns are affected when their mothers are infected with this coronavirus. (See this KSTP article and this one from the Mayo Clinic.)
Does Covid cause stillbirth? Data shows that stillbirths rate has increased in the US, from 1 in 155 for uninfected women to 1 in 80 for infected ones from March 2020 to September 2021, especially women with certain underlying conditions, including chronic high blood pressure, which required intensive care or ventilators. CDC researchers putting together this data advise people to consider prevention strategies, including vaccination. (See this article from PBS. What the study doesn’t answer is how many of the 1.2 million women considered in this hospital birth deliveries study were actually vaccinated.)
An article published on Nov. 30, 2021 about a recent Israeli study notes that in some cases where the babies were stillborn, researchers found a higher Covid load in the placenta than even in the baby of the infected mother, which may explain why the baby of a mother with coronavirus is almost twice as likely to be stillborn. Also note that the Delta variant makes things much worse with regard to pregnant women. According to a CDC report released this November, the Delta variant has actually increased the risk of stillbirth fourfold.
So I think my friend who gave birth to twins this spring unvaccinated (there weren’t enough studies by the time she gave birth) was very lucky. If anyone asks me, these are not the best time to carry a pregnancy, but then again people over 40 like my friend may not have a lot of time to wait, so they may decide to face the risks. Does the vaccine protect pregnant women? According to the CDC, they do, because they lead to antibodies which find their way to the babies through the umbilical cord to protect them. For more on Covid during pregnancy or breastfeeding, see this CDC page.
There definitely is more data now regarding getting pregnant during Covid. Whether this will lead to a baby boom in the near future while we’re still struggling with this pandemic remains to be seen. If you ask me, just as some people are confident they will not get severely sick with Covid, they may be confident that a potential pregnancy will go according to plan as well. And they will decide to have a baby, pandemic or not, just as some of their grandparents or great-grandparents, or their generational peers, decided to enlarge their family during WWII. These people may or may not be swayed by new information. I think, however, that it’s important to heed the new studies.
Whatever you or a dear one decides, here’s to healthy babies!
To a happier, healthier life,