Against national trends, Avera and Sanford see baby booms in 2021

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Business has been booming for Dr. Catherine Brockmeier in the past 12 months. 

Working as an OBYGN (obstetrics-gynecology) specialist for Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, Brockmeier said in her six years she’s seen a gradual increase in births which doesn’t correlate with downward trends nationwide. 

“Something definitely is unique to South Dakota and we’re happy to have it,” said Brockmeier, who noted Avera saw an increase in live births both in Sioux Falls and across the Avera system. 

In 2021, Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls reported 2,248 mothers having 2,337 babies. For the past two years, Avera McKennan has averaged more than 2,300 deliveries. 

The same has held true for Sanford Health. Jon Berg, a spokesman for Sanford, said Sanford Health’s Sioux Falls hospital has seen close to a 9% increase in births in 2021 over 2020.

These local numbers go against a report by the U.S. Census Bureau which showed a downturn in births in winter 2020-2021. Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, evidence shows the pandemic affected fertility starting in December 2020, nine months after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in March 2020. 

The study found average births per day were down 9.41% in January 2021 and down 2.88% in February 2021. 

“Most other states and healthcare systems saw a decline due to the pandemic,” Brockmeier said. “We didn’t mirror that here.” 

Despite seeing declines because of the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau study pointed out the number of births in the U.S. has declined every year since 2008 except for 2014. The study also noted U.S. births have annual cycles with increases in the spring, peaks in the summer, declines in the fall and lowest during the winter months. 

Recent history has shown South Dakota leading the country in fertility rates. 

The most recent fertility rate per 1,000 women aged 15-44 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is from 2019. It lists South Dakota and North Dakota atop the list with a rate of 70.6, while Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont all list fertility rates below 50. 

Brockmeier said people living in the Midwest traditionally start families at younger ages and have bigger families. 

“When you start younger, your fertility is naturally at its peak,” Brockmeier said. “We get younger moms starting their families and growing their families.” 

The upward trend in births will continue into 2022, Brockmeier believes. She mentioned she’s been seeing a lot of current patients with due dates in July. 

“It is busy,” Brockmeier said. “It’s never a bad thing with everything going on in the world to get a chance to celebrate the birth of a baby and help someone grow their family.” 

Doctors encourage COVID-19 vaccines for pregnancies 

Entering 2022, Brockmeier said doctors know a lot more about caring for any pregnant women who may be affected by COVID-19. 

“We are lucky that most of our women are starting to listen to our advice and get vaccinated,” Brockmeier said. “Initially it was scary for anyone whether pregnant or not to consider a new vaccine but there is so much data now to say it’s safe for all, especially pregnant women.” 

Brockmeier said COVID-19 infections with pregnant women can cause preterm births, preterm rupture of membranes, stillbirths and miscarriages. 

“We know that COVID infection itself has the potential for really, really negative impacts for both mom and the fetus,” Brockmeier said. “If we are preventing a serious illness, then the vaccine is widely efficacious.”   

Brockmeier said she always encourages any parents considering having a baby to speak with a doctor. 

“There’s so much you can learn from that visit alone just to talk about your health history, what your concerns might be and what questions on what to expect during pregnancy,” Brockmeier said.

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