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Baby boom: Pandemic has brought a rise in local birthrate, at hospital and in-home

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Tara Jeffrey

The ‘baby chimes’ are ringing more often at Bluewater Health these days.

The Sarnia hospital recorded 583 births between April and September, a 13% increase over the same period in 2020, with 106 new babies in September alone.

“I know October is just as busy, and won’t be surprised to see elevated numbers as well,” said Melissa Doan, the interim manager of the Maternal Infant Child Unit.

The hospital plays a five-second ‘chime’ of Brahms’ Lullaby over the intercom every time a baby is born. Lately, it’s been sounding three times a day.

“We have run into capacity issues, where we are overflowing our postpartum beds into the pediatric unit,” said Doan, adding staff are working “extremely, extremely hard.”

“On top of the normal stressors that all health care is feeling through COVID-19, our staff is just doing that much more, and they’re doing a great job.”

The Better Outcomes Registry and Network, or BORN, has noted a ‘pandemic baby boom’ in Ontario. Births began rising in March and are exceeding infant numbers from 2018 and 2019.

“I know last year we were under 1,000, and this year we are on track to be well over that,” Doan said.

Meanwhile, local midwives are struggling to keep up with demand.

“We do have a waitlist every month and we try to accommodate as many as we can,” said Bonnie Slaa of the Midwifery Services of Lambton-Kent.

“However, just recently we’ve just had such a large wait list and have had to turn people away.

“Every time we go to the hospital, the whole ward is full of people who are delivering or have delivered,” she added. “And that’s not something that we’ve seen in other years — just the sheer amount of births happening each day.”

Slaa says the service also saw a significant increase in home births in 2020 — about 40% more — and expects that number will be even higher this year, a trend brought on by the pandemic.

“They felt safer, just being at home and not being exposed,” she said.

She suspects Sarnia’s baby boom may subside as families get busier and continue towards a ‘return to normal.’

“But it’s great that we’re seeing so many little people coming into our community — we’re pretty excited.”


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