Hastings Hospital sees mini ‘baby boom’
TAHLEQUAH – A 10-year record high of more than 100 babies were delivered in August at the Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital.
The 100th baby was delivered during the month’s final weekend, with an additional four to follow.
“We typically average about 75 to 80 each month,” said Dr. Rebecca Shepherd, CN nursing senior director. “This is the first time in over 10 years we’ve had over 100 births. It’s pretty special. A lot of our patients have other options for locations that they can deliver. So I think it really goes to show that in a lot of our communities, our people are choosing to have their babies with us.”
Hastings Hospital is one of 604 “baby friendly” facilities in the United States, as designated by Baby Friendly USA, a global initiative of the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund.
The hospital’s labor and delivery department includes six certified nurse midwives, seven obstetricians, three pediatric specialists and a nursing staff of 36.
“We have a phenomenal staff of nurses, physicians and nurse midwives that take care of our patients,” Shepherd said. “Our staff is very good at what they do.”
Dr. Stephen Jones, CN Health Services executive director, told tribal leaders recently that there is speculation the extended COVID-19 lockdown could lead to a rise in births.
“There’s anticipation that, because of the COVID pandemic, we’re going to have a high number of babies born over the next three to six months,” he said. “That’s a good problem to have and that’s a good thing that we have the capacity for those patients also.”
Shepherd said the hospital has seen a spike in prenatal visits and pregnancy test requests.
“We do anticipate in the fall and into the winter that we will be seeing an increased number of births,” Shepherd said, adding that hospital employees are up to the task. “We have the space and we have the staff. We’re prepared, and we have a good plan in place for keeping mother and baby safe with COVID precautions. I would put our health system’s response to COVID up against any in the nation.”
Other health experts and studies predict a nationwide decline in births. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution research group, the COVID-19 pandemic “will likely lead to a large, lasting baby bust.”
“The pandemic has thrust the country into an economic recession,” the institute says. “Economic reasoning and past evidence suggest that this will lead people to have fewer children. The decline in births could be on the order of 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births next year.”
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported a national birth tally in 2019 of 3.74 million, down 1% from 2018. Last year marked the fifth in a row of declines averaging 1%.
Personal finance company SoFi and reproductive health company Modern Fertility found that nearly a third of 400 women who took part in a parenthood survey earlier in 2020 changed their family planning decisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study says that 61% reported they’re “more worried and anxious about their ability to have kids” in general, while 31% said COVID-19 changed their fertility or family planning decisions entirely.