University of Michigan: ‘Summer baby surge’ expected after slowed pandemic conception rates

U-M women’s hospital expecting 10-15% increase in births

Unrecognizable father and mother holding their newborn baby boy in the arms, mom kissing her son

ANN ARBOR – As the recent COVID surge has slowed dramatically in Michigan, a new type of surge is expected this summer: a baby boom.

New research from the University of Michigan indicates that the slowed pregnancy and birth rates caused by the initial COVID-19 shutdown is quickly reversing.

“Birth rates declined early on in the pandemic, but we expect a dramatic rebound soon,” lead author and maternal fetal medicine director at Michigan Medicine Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, Molly Stout said in a release. “We’re already seeing signs of a summer baby surge.”

Similar to the way infectious disease experts have been projecting COVID surge trends using case modeling, Stout and her team have been using modeling for pregnancy trends.

Researchers used electronic health records for a group of pregnancies at the university health system to “model pregnancy episodes and accurately project anticipated changes in pregnancy volumes over the last year during the pandemic,” according to a release.

Between 2017 and 2020, pregnancies gradually increased at U-M, from 4,100 to 4,620 pregnancies annually. But once the pandemic hit, pregnancy volumes decreased from November 2020 to spring of 2021 by about 14 percent.

Read: Michigan Medicine opens COVID ‘long haul’ clinic for adults, children

Experts say that multiple factors could have caused the decline, including lack of child care or regular support systems, economic uncertainty, the postponement of fertility or reproductive care and the impact the pandemic had on women in the workforce.

However, the same modeling system now points to a birth surge this summer. Between the summer and fall of 2021, U-M hospital is preparing for a 10 to 15 percent increase in births.

When the world went into quarantine in 2020, media reports made speculations about a COVID baby boom as more people spent time at home. However, the reports were not based on data, Stout said.

“What we have shown here is that through modeling of pregnancies within a healthcare system we can project birth rate increases and decreases associated with major societal shifts,” Stout said in a release.

“Major societal changes certainly seem to influence reproductive choices, population growth and fertility rates. Usually, we see the effects by modeling birth and death rates, only as the changes are occurring. With this methodology we can accurately project anticipated birth rates ahead of the actual changes.”

The same trend has been demonstrated throughout history, including the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression in 1929 and most recently in 2008 during the recession.

Read: Michigan Medicine, U-M physician assistants reach tentative agreement

Stout said she hopes her team’s modeling system in predicting upcoming birth trends can help other hospitals better prepare for labor and delivery needs.

“These projection techniques can inform planning for capacity, staffing needs and other downstream effects on the hospital system,” Stout said in a release. “But it can also be used in partnerships between hospitals and governmental groups to better understand population dynamics and help minimize the negative effects of a pandemic or any other major event on society.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.