Could isolation from coronavirus inspire a new baby boom? History suggests... maybe - InfoNews

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Could isolation from coronavirus inspire a new baby boom? History suggests... maybe

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
March 14, 2020 - 7:00 AM

We're all being encouraged to stay home to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus and there's not many options for entertainment anyway, but Netflix and chill... so what are the chances there's a baby boom coming in about nine months time?

We had a look at other cases of forced isolation and large scale emergencies to see what other people, well... did.

Results certainly vary.

In September of 2014 hospital wards across the Greater Toronto Area started to record a surge in births. Hospitals had to bring in extra staff and finds extra beds, and couples thought back to what they were doing nine months earlier.

And in January 2014 they were likely off work at home after an ice storm cut power lines and caused huge amounts of damage to areas of Ontario.

The media dubbed them "ice storm babies" and couples were quoted saying "When you have no power and there’s nothing on TV, what else are you going to do?

There was a similar presumption that the ice storm which hit Quebec and Ontario in 1998 and left some without power for over a month led to a boom in the Quebec population nine months later. However, after being called out by one of his students, McGill University Associate Professor Christopher M. Buddle crunched the numbers and found the ice storm didn't result in the mini baby boom many Quebecers believe.

While it sounds completely plausible, scientific reports appear mixed when it comes to sourcing what causes mini baby booms, but couples don't appear to be hunkering down and getting frisky during such major events (or if they were, all indications are they were well prepared). 

CNN reported that after Super Storm Sandy in 2012 some New Jersey hospitals reported a spike in births nine months after the storm. One hospital reported a 35 per cent rise in births, another a 20 per cent increase. However, some New Jersey hospitals saw no increase in babies being born.

Scientific papers studying the effects of historical events that caused a large number of deaths tend to find a large decrease in births nine months later. However, according to the Institute for Family Studies, this effect is not consistent and following an event, the birth rate can increase to levels higher than before. The report says after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, women in communities that experienced tsunami deaths saw their fertility rise sharply relative to other women. Essentially, if you are looking for a spike in numbers simply nine months later, that might be the wrong approach — a baby boom can last years and begin some time after the major events.

The complex report by the Institute for Family Studies on whether COVID-19 will affect birth spikes worldwide concludes the virus may boost births over four years after the epidemic runs its course by anywhere from 0.3 to 40 per cent. The Institute says the estimate is "next to useless" and their findings are "extremely variable across different contexts."

Some sources also suggest, as was the case with the baby boom following World War II, that they resumed family life once it was clear the world was a safer place.

While baby boom spikes maybe be complicated, the U.K. government has discovered that September 26 is the most popular day of the year to be born. The research says "part of the reason" could be due to couples planning to have children at the start of the school year or it could also be due to the large number of vacation days over the Christmas period.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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