AUSTIN, Texas — If one thing came from the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, it has been the quality time people have spent together inside their homes.
This quality time also prompted speculation early on that the U.S. could experience a baby boom. Some Austin doctors were on board with the idea.
"Everyone was hoping for a baby boom and we kind of joked about it," said Dr. Yvette Gutierrez Schieffer, an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) and chief of obstetrics at Austin Diagnostic Clinic.
Based on the clinic's caseload this year compared to 2020, they will see 10% more patients over the next few months before it settles back down.
"November was really busy. It was probably a record busy," she said.
However, Gutierrez Schieffer considered their increases as more of a baby bump than a big boom.
While Austin is preparing for more babies on the way, that is not the case nationwide, which is predicted to experience a baby bust.
According to research from Brookings, a public policy nonprofit, there are likely to be at least 300,000 fewer births in the U.S. this year.
The Modern Fertility Blog also surveyed thousands of families about their fertility plans in their annual Modern State of Fertility report. About 30% of families changed their fertility plans because of the pandemic.
Gutierrez Schieffer said economic instability and fears of having a baby in the pandemic are likely some of the reasons why.
"People realized that we were on in this for the long haul and are kind of being more careful," she said.
But an Austin-area couple was not going to let COVID-19 put a damper on plans for their first child.
Emilye and Rylan Clark got married five years ago and planned to have a baby in 2020 before the world had different plans for the year.
"We are going to do the thing and the pandemic, and we're just going to be positive about it," Emilye Clark said.
In May, the Clarks found out Emilye was pregnant.
It has not necessarily been an easy journey. Rylan Clark had to FaceTime into doctor's visits, which she said just built the excitement for when he is in the delivery room the day the baby is born.
They also celebrated all the moments they could together, like the gender reveal. They found out they are having a baby boy this January who they will name Ledger Marshall Clark.
Some of Emilye Clark's friends even contracted COVID-19 while pregnant, but they are all safe and healthy. She said it has been nice to have support from friends.
"Things are not as accessible, so I think it's just been nice to have friends. You are in the same boat," she said.
As many families in the Austin area navigate creating or growing their families, Dr. Gutierrez Schieffer said do not be scared during these weird times.
"It's OK to get pregnant. We're going to take care of you," Gutierrez Schieffer said.
In the months and years to come in Austin, Gutierrez Schieffer expects they will see more babies born but not necessarily because of COVID-19.
"We're going to see bigger numbers just because there are more people and a lot of the population is coming to Austin as young professionals," she added. "They're ready to start families."
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