Baby bust: Pandemic takes toll on U.S. birth rate

Posted January 26, 2021 9:45 a.m. EST

(NBC News) Blizzards and long power outages are often said to trigger baby booms. Many believed that COVID-19 stay-at-home orders would do the same, but some researchers predict we might see the exact opposite.

The Brookings Institution estimates this year could see a dip from 2019, approaching 300,000 fewer births.

Shelby Parker of Ohio is the mother of a 2-year-old girl. Parker and her husband, Ben, had hoped to deliver little Abby a sister or brother fairly soon, but when the pandemic hit, it changed everything.

"It just felt irresponsible. To bring a kid into this world," Parker said.

Eliana Dockterman recently wrote about the expected baby boom turned bust for Time magazine.

"I think that it just comes down to people are not able to afford -- both in terms of money but also emotionally -- to plan to have kids right now," Dockterman says.

Dockterman said women with lower incomes, especially minorities, are disproportionately affected.

"There simply is just not enough childcare available, schools are closed, and so somebody has to take care of the kids," she notes.

With jobs and healthcare uncertain, along with the threat of contracting COVID-19 in the hospital, it appears many couples are actively trying not to conceive.

"I think many women just got very exhausted and thought to themselves, 'Can I take on the demands of a pregnancy or the demands of newborn care?'" said Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

For Parker, it’s lead to a feeling of mourning.

"I am so incredibly grateful for the beautiful healthy daughter that I have," she said. "But, you know, you have this picture of a family in your head. And I always pictured my family with two kids."

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.