Back in June 2021, several hospitals in the United States predicted that there would be a Covid baby boom—that is, an increase in births due to the, ahem, lockdown circumstances of Covid-19. Nationally, this wound up being far from the truth— researchers are now calling it what was supposed to be a "baby boom" a "baby bust."

In fact, birth rates around the country are low, with a 3.8 percent decline through December 2020 as compared to the previous year.

For Sarasota, however, there may be a little glimmer of sweet, cooing hope. In the last two months, the number of babies born at Sarasota Memorial Hospital has actually increased significantly. We've had our own little summer baby boom.

The hospital averages about 3,500 births annually. There were 416 births at the hospital in August 2021 alone, and 406 in September.

"We don't typically see months where births are in the 400s like this," says Sarasota Memorial Women & Children Services executive director Pam Beitlich. "Whether this is from Covid or not, we're not 100 percent sure."

Beitlich thinks the growth in the Sarasota-Manatee area is partially related to the real estate boom. Young families are moving to our town's up-and-coming neighborhoods, especially Lakewood Ranch. Beitlich says her nursing staff has heard tales of new parents who just moved into town from California or somewhere on the East Coast, "maybe to escape Covid restrictions," she says.

"This baby boom has been occurring for the last six months, and we don't see it slowing down any time soon as long as Sarasota keeps growing," Beitlich says.

And while Covid may not be necessarily causing our boom, there are other factors new and expectant parents should keep in mind while the pandemic is still a concern.

"There is no data about Covid-19 affecting the ability to get pregnant," says Beitlich. She says that, according to the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, there are also no contraindications of vaccination and pregnancy. If anything, it's recommended that people receive the Covid-19 vaccine if they're pregnant or trying to conceive because they're at higher risk of infection.

"At this point, it is recommended for all pregnant people to get to get the Covid vaccine," Beitlich adds. "There was a fear of the unknown in the beginning of the pandemic. But now, health care providers are comfortable with our governing bodies for obstetrics recommendations."

The hospital is also working hard to keep new parents safe. Beitlich says staff are extremely diligent when it comes to Covid testing everyone on the maternity ward. Everyone has to wear a mask, and if a new parent ends up Covid-positive, SMH staff is doing everything to everyone safe.

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