Instead of a baby boom, U.S. experts predict a ‘COVID-19 baby bust’ as the number of pregnancies drop

Hawaii doctors say the decline isn’t as drastic in the state
Because of the economic and health crisis, the Brookings Institute is projecting around 300,000...
Because of the economic and health crisis, the Brookings Institute is projecting around 300,000 fewer births in the U.S. this year.((Source: Hawaii News Now))
Updated: Jan. 1, 2021 at 5:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the start of the pandemic, with everyone stuck indoors, it was believed there would be a “baby boom” ― people had little else to do during stay-at-home orders.

But now, about nine months later, experts say it’s looking more like a “baby bust.”

Because of safety protocols like social distancing, people going out less, and many facing financial hardship because of the pandemic, national experts say there has been a significant drop in both planned and unplanned pregnancies.

Using data from the 1918 Spanish Flu and the Great Depression, the Washington D.C. think tank The Brookings Institute is projecting around 300,000 fewer births in the U.S. this year.

Researchers say other factors, like ongoing school and daycare closures, could mean even fewer newborns and long-term economic impacts.

Here in Hawaii, doctors say the decline appears more gradual.

“We thought that maybe we would see a boom in new baby ultrasounds that women undergo during the first part of pregnancies, and we have not seen a rise in that at this point,” said Dr. Men-Jean Lee. “It seems to be patterning the decline in overall births across the state.”

Dr. Lee, Medical Director of the Fetal Diagnostic Unit and Kapiolani Medical Center and the Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, says the pandemic is forcing many women to think twice about getting pregnant.

“They’re being conscious of avoiding to start a family during a pandemic. A lot of people that have lost their insurance due to the economic downturn and women are losing their jobs,” said Dr. Lee.

She says some women are also avoiding hospitals because they’re worried they’ll catch the virus there.

“We might be facing a small number of women that are so fearful of the healthcare system that they’ve gone underground. So they might be choosing to deliver at home,” Dr. Lee said.

The experience of having a baby has drastically changed because of COVID-19.

Kailua residents Rufino and Marcy Magliba were supposed to get married in Italy this year, but the pandemic hit, then they found out they were expecting.

Because of limits on gathering sizes, the high school sweethearts had a small wedding ceremony at the beach and a drive by baby shower.

“I couldn’t even go to doctors visits,” said Rufino.

“I basically experienced all of that by myself, which was really sad too, and I felt bad for him,” said Marcy.

The new parents welcomed a healthy baby girl, Maiya, to the world in December.

In a year full of surprises, they say this one couldn’t be more of a blessing.

“She keeps me awake, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Rufino said.

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