Nine months after the sixteen-day government shutdown in October, maternity wards in the Washington D.C. area seem busier than usual.
“We keep getting asked, ‘What’s going on?’” Yulette Newman, a nurse at Sibley Memorial Hospital told Jessica Contrera of the Washington Post. “And we sit back and say, ‘Well, you’re in D.C. What was happening nine months ago?’”
Aftereffects of the federal furlough are starting to show up in unusual, but not surprising ways. Sibley averages 9.2 births occur daily. In the past month, average births increased by 32.6 percent, another three births per day.
Newman, a nurse at Sibley’s Family Centered Care Unit for nearly eight years, credits her co-workers in predicting the erstwhile baby boom. She posted a photo of “Expected Date of Confinement Wheel” on Facebook 10 days into the shutdown. The wheel is a circular calendar that obstetricians use to predict the birth of a child, based on the date of conception.
The caption of the photo says it all: “Furlough babies.” Newman’s post received 16 likes, 22 comments, and more recognition later in June, when the number of births began to rise.
At Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md., nurses made the same jokes in July, when births in the first half of the month increased to 385 in 2014, from only 265 in 2013.
Virginia Hospital Center recorded 99 more births during April, May and June, although hospital spokesperson Maryanne Boster told Contrera that birth rates have been rising in the past few years.
Shutdown pregnancies are also visible at federal offices. Jessica Hernandez, a Food and Drug Administration program analyst, was one of three women in her 150-person office who became pregnant after the shutdown. Gabrielle Nadine, her daughter who was born on June 3, was conceived during Hernandez’s time off work, but she admits it was “all kind of hazy.”
“It was definitely stressful not knowing when we would get paid, but I actually had a great time,” said Hernandez. “I got lunch with other feds, hung out with my mom, volunteered at my other daughter’s school, cleaned some closets and then just relaxed.”
With the wave of new arrivals come skeptics — those who insist the surge in Beltway babes is pure coincidence.
But the increase is not everywhere.
American birth rates are still historically low, and spokespersons for Inova Fairfax Hospital, Medstar Washington Hospital Center and Medstar Georgetown University Hospital tell the Post their data does not support a post-shutdown baby boom, with those hospitals finding no significant rise in births.
Statisticians have also studied claims of baby booms after severe weather or events. One notable 1970 study questioned a reported baby boom described in the New York Times after the 1965 blackout.
Newman, the Sibley Hospital nurse, admits there will always be cynics of the theories that she and other maternity nurses subscribe to: events like full moons, substantial barometric pressure drops and bad weather will influence conception and birth rates.
“But every time [something unusual happens], I think, nine months from now, here we go!” she said. “And sure enough, I’m usually right.”