Will the lockdown cause a baby boom?

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
The jury is out on whether Canterbury could see an explosion of Covid-19 babies in nine months’ time.

Healthcare experts have found it difficult to forecast whether history could repeat itself and see a baby boom following the lift of lockdown. 

When World War 2 ended in 1945 and New Zealand’s soldiers returned, the population skyrocketed between the late 1940s and 1970s.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand showed by the mid-1950s, Pākehā women had on average 3.8 live births while Māori women experienced on average almost seven.

In 1961, live births peaked to 65,391.

In comparison, births per year in the 1950s ranged from 49,332 to 61,800 – figures from Statistics New Zealand showed.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said it is difficult to predict whether the same will happen this time, but if there is a spike in nine months time it would make sense as people are home and there isn’t a lot to do.

But Ms Edmond said the stress and anxiety caused by Covid-19 could also cause a decrease in many people’s sex drive.

“We have got many families under huge financial pressure and having significant worries about them losing jobs. We may not see that (a baby boom) this time because of that,” she said.

On top of financial pressures, police are expecting to see the level of family violence rise during the lockdown period – putting a further strain on New Zealand families.

The Canterbury District Health Board’s director of midwifery Norma Campbell said with any long period of time where people have to stay at home, a baby boom is always a possibility.

“That will become apparent in about two-three months time when women seek care for their pregnancy,” she said.

If it was to happen, Ms Campbell assured Christchurch Women’s Hospital’s maternity unit – the largest of seven birthing units in Canterbury – would have enough time to prepare and be ready for any increase in births.

In previous years, the country has faced a shortage of midwives. Last year, midwives across the country were pushing for better resourcing and funding from the Ministry of Health.

But Ms Campbell said it now has more midwives as a result of recruitment and retention work than it has had in a number of years.

Some midwives who teach have come back into the workforce while locums who are often travelling are now back in New Zealand and available, Ms Campbell said.

Comparing now to the end of World War 2, Ms Edmond said the times are different in the sense there wasn’t the same contraceptive options available as there is today.

“One of the things we want to make sure is people who aren’t planning a pregnancy that we can help them in that planning.”

It was reported there could be a global shortage of condoms after Covid-19 shut down Malaysia’s Karex Bhd, the world’s biggest producer for more than a week.

While the company has since been given permission to re-start production, only 50 per cent of its workforce could return.

Ms Edmond said she hadn’t heard about the potential issue with condoms, but before the Covid-19 crisis, there had been supply issues around some of the oral contraceptive pills.

Statistics New Zealand figures show in Canterbury between 2018-2019, birth rates slightly increased from 6939 to 7164.

But will those numbers boom as a result of an influx of babies in nine months time? Only time will tell.







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