Did the closure of nonessential businesses and a stay-at-home order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania last year lead to a baby boom?
Hospital birth information suggests that didn’t happen in Lancaster County.
The county’s three hospital systems — Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, UPMC Lititz and WellSpan Health — recorded 6,145 births in 2020. That’s slightly more than the 6,086 births in 2019, a roughly 1% increase, but less than the 6,259 in 2018.
Hospital births account for the majority of babies born in Lancaster County but not all.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has not yet released 2020 data.
LNP | LancasterOnline was able to examine births from the county’s health systems going back only to 2018, the year after UPMC acquired the Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center.
Here are the county births by health system in 2020:
— Lancaster General Health: 4,319
— WellSpan: 779
— UPMC: 1,047
Lancaster General Hospital provided birth data to LNP | LancasterOnline by fiscal year, while the other two health systems did so by calendar year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not expected to provide data until later this year.
‘Little to do except binge TV’
Researchers are skeptical of a COVID-19 baby boom.
“(T)here is fairly consistent evidence that fertility declines during economic crises, and for large sets of the U.S. population, COVID-19 also implied an economic crisis (either job loss or increased job uncertainty),” Hans-Peter Kohler, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who focuses on fertility, said in an email to LNP | LancasterOnline.
While the data is still coming in, researchers have used fertility-related Google searches to predict the magnitude of the fertility decline, Kohler said.
Kohler said the evidence does not suggest a baby boom is likely in early 2021 resulting from “folks (being) locked inside with little to do except binge TV.”
The number of babies born nationally had been falling even before the pandemic, dropping — on average — 1.4% each year from 2011 to 2019, according to CDC data.
A recent Associated Press analysis of birth data in 25 states suggests that while Americans were shut-in, baby making didn’t supplant online streaming. Nine months after the spring lockdown, births were down 4.3% in these states.
Not everyone agrees with the analysis.
Rae Johnson-Bundy has been a doula for nearly a decade.
Doulas provide education and support before, during and after childbirth.
“Things have totally turned around for me, and I would say COVID probably had a lot to do with it,” said Johnson-Bundy, owner of Doula Right Thing/ Childbirth Services in Manheim Township.
She’s helped with nearly a dozen births since November, and she has 10 babies coming before the end of October.
Was it because of COVID-19?
“That’s what I would associate it with because people had more time on their hands,” Johnson-Bundy said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.