Sunday, July 21, 2002
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Predictions of a summer baby boom in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks have proved to be a bust.
Cataclysmic events in the past have spawned sharp rises in the number of births, notably the "baby boom" that followed the return of soldiers after World War II. And some physicians predicted New York could witness a similar phenomenon as Sept. 11 reminded people of the uncertainty of life.
Dr. Michael Silverstein, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at New York University's School of Medicine, said many of his patients told him the events of Sept. 11 motivated them to have a child.
And last spring some New York obstetricians and birthing groups noticed a swell in the number of pregnancies, with couples saying the destruction of the World Trade Center spurred them to have a baby.
Four hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, killing about 3,000 people.
But the boom has not been borne out.
"I think everyone sort of presumed that there would be, or maybe even hoped there would be, a bump in business," Dr. Jeffrey King, chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Vincent's hospital in Manhattan, told Reuters.
"But we have just not seen anything out of the ordinary."
OFFICIAL FIGURES UNAVAILABLE FOR A YEAR
Official figures on births will not be available for at least a year, according to New York's Department of Health, but calls to some leading hospitals--St. Vincent's, Mt. Sinai and Lenox Hill--showed no evidence of a rise in births 10 months after the tragic events of Sept. 11.
King said his hospital had seen a characteristic, seasonal dip in births for four months following Sept. 11, but the number then returned to the normal delivery rate of about 150 a month.
"Obstetrics is a business of peaks and valleys. Today, for instance, every labor room is full," King said about the hospital's eight chambers set aside for deliveries.
"Two days ago, every labor room was empty. It just goes in cycles. I expect that over the year our average will be about what it's been."
Dr. Michael Nuccitelli, a psychologist at SLS Health, a behavioral health care facility in Brewster, NY about an hour north of downtown Manhattan, says the Sept. 11 tragedy encouraged some couples to conceive, but dissuaded others.
"From our experience, and we work with hundreds of patients, I haven't seen a baby boom or a baby bust. It could go either way," said Nuccitelli, who says some 400 to 500 patients are seen monthly at SLS facilities, including some directly affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.
"What we are noticing as it relates to the families and the couples we're working with is that people are no longer hesitating, they are being more decisive."
This cuts both ways.
"Most people know in their heart whether they want children or they don't want children," Nuccitelli said. "The trauma has created what I call a developmental ripple effect...people look at themselves and ask, 'Where have I come from? Where am I now? Where am I going?"'
MORE HARMONY FOR SOME, CONFLICT FOR OTHERS
Nuccitelli said Sept. 11 caused many couples to take these issues off the back burner.
"This has created more harmony in (some) relationships and also created conflict," he said. "As it relates to having children in marriage, the World Trade Center tragedy has been a double-edged sword.
"I think it's evenly split on both sides. 'Why bring a child into this world?' and the antithesis, 'We want to have a child because we don't know what's coming around the corner."'
Silverstein, who along with his partners handles 350 deliveries a year, nearly 10% of the births at NYU's School of Medicine, said he thinks evidence will eventually reveal an increase in births in reaction to Sept. 11.
"I've had patients tell me that one of their key reasons for their getting pregnant was the Sept. 11 events," Silverstein said.
"It gave them the impetus to get into what I call the 'carpe diem' mode, seize the day," said Silverstein. "You know, 'Life is too short, we're planning to have kids at some point. Why delay that?"'
But he said it could take some time before the boom is recognized.
"The people that got the impetus from Sept. 11, they first started trying at that juncture. It takes the average couple three to nine months to get pregnant. They are going to be conceiving anywhere from October, November to April, May and June. The hypothetical surge could be sustained later."