Gynaecologists at Belgium’s largest maternity unit expect to deliver 400-500 more new babies next year than normal, thanks to the Covid-19 crisis.
The GZA Sint-Augustinus in Antwerp has the largest maternity unit in the country, and the prediction is the work of one of the gynaecologists, Dr. Johan Wiemeersch, who is also the spokesperson for the Flemish Association of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Just as the reunion of couples at the end of the Second World War led to an explosion of new births in the following years, leading to the whole generation known as baby-boomers, so the widespread use of enforced lockdowns aimed at curbing the growth of the coronavirus epidemic can be expected to have a similar, albeit less dramatic, effect.
“These deliveries will be spread over the year and most are ongoing,” he explained.
“We usually cannot trace such booms back to an exact period, but that figure of 400 to 500 is a prognosis based on the pregnancy cases currently underway.”
If the prediction is correct, the first wave of lockdown babies should already be with us, the result of pregnancies that were initiated back in March-April, the time of the first lockdown.
The second lockdown came in early November, which suggests that the second wave of babies can be expected in July-August.
“We have been a bit cautious at first about putting this information out into the world, because times of crisis don’t always lead to increases in births,” he said.
“We have had economic crises in the recent past, a terrorist threat that lasted a long time and generally periods of uncertainty for many people. None of that had any effect on pregnancy rates. But this time we have a crisis with a lockdown. Normally people don’t stay indoors during a crisis. We strongly suspect that this effect is a factor now.”
Whatever the effects of lockdown, the maternity hospitals are well-equipped to cope with the new wave of births, he said.
“We will have to take action, make staffing changes and increase staffing levels, but I think we are ready,” he said.
“The main difference will be that women who give birth to their second or third child, and who are used to the process, will have to go home earlier. But we are certainly not dreading the new wave. My colleagues recently put it very nicely: ‘The waiting room is full of big bellies.’”