What happens when the government shuts down, a storm passes through an area, and causes mass destruction? Apparently a baby booming rise in birth rates nine months later, at least that’s what hospitals have been seeing lately.
The greatest government shutdown of all time lost 6.6 million days to employees. At times, as many as 850,000 government employees were granted a leave of absence as Congress struggled to pass their Federal Budget for the fiscal year, according to the Whitehouse. Aside from losing $2 billion in productivity from workers, October’s 16-day-long government shutdown in Washington, D.C., caused an unexpected boom in birthrates.
“We’re at near-capacity right now,” Sibley Memorial Hospital spokesman Gary Stephenson told ABC News, adding that furloughed workers “apparently found ways to amuse themselves.”
Other hospitals nearby, such as Virginal Hospital Center in Arlington, delivered nearly 100 more babies in April, May, and June than they did in the same three-month period the previous year, according to hospital spokeswoman Maryanne Boster. Hundreds of thousands of employees had off from work, and it appears they put their time into making babies, as we’re now seeing a slight baby boom this month, exactly nine months post shutdown.
“How long until someone on television points out that during the shutdown the folks in Washington are apparently doing at home what Washington has been accused of doing to the American people?” Brian Williams jokingly said during NBC Nightly News.
A government shutdown isn’t the only thing that’ll send people to their bedrooms, but also natural disasters — most recently Superstorm Sandy. The storm destroyed thousands of homes, caused 200 deaths, and $50 billion in damage along the east coast on Oct. 29, 2012. In the aftermath, those who were stuck at home without lights, television, or any electronics to distract them, found refuge from the cold beneath the bedsheets.
"It was a crazy time," Dr. Steven Morgan, who practices obstetrics and gynecology at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune told the NY Daily News. "A lot of people were home, a lot of people didn't have TV, and obviously a lot of reproduction was happening."
The Jersey Shore University Medical Center expected 200 babies in July 2013, which was up 160 more from the previous July. Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch was delivering 500 babies, a 371 baby birth increase compared to the previous year. Both hospitals had to staff extra hospital workers in order to handle the baby boom influx.
"There is something about that heightened arousal, that sense of emergency and danger that does seem to cause people to form this physical connection, to kind of compensate in some way," said Dr. Christine Tintorer, a psychiatrist at Monmouth Medical, told the Daily News.
This isn’t a new phenomenon either; birth rate increases have swept across the country whenever a natural disaster took hold of an area. After South Carolina’s Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989, birth rates spiked in the 24 counties that were declared disaster areas, according to a study conducted in 2002.
“I can say that I've definitely seen spikes after things like hurricanes, blackouts and blizzards,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ senior medical contributor, who practices obstetrics and gynecology. “I’m not aware of any hard data on this, but anecdotally, many obstetricians will ask their patients about the events nine months prior, and many women will say 'Yes, we conceived during the blackout.'"