Lockdown Baby: Fact or Fiction

Cast your mind back to last year, the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020. Such a stressful and worrying time for so many reasons. 

My acupuncture clinic had to temporarily close along with many other businesses. I was so concerned for the emotional wellbeing of my patients, many of which were in the middle of fertility treatments which had to be postponed. I offered free zoom consultations, just to keep in touch with patients and offer advice on their lifestyle to aid their chances of conception. 

The overwhelming topic of conversation was of “Lockdown Babies”. 

Everyone is Pregnant!

Even people who hadn’t really thought of starting a family just yet, were announcing pregnancies. A winning combination of furlough, great weather, lowered stress levels, improved eating habits, walking every day, had created a huge baby boom. 

And amazingly, many of my patients fell pregnant. Some of which had been trying for many years. Miracle babies were popping up every week. But of course, lots of ladies were still waiting for their little blue line. And for those who had been doing everything possible to get pregnant, the news was devastating. Hearing another about another couple who’ve just had a 12 week scan can be a gut wrenching kick in the stomach. 

Fact or Fiction?

It’s commonly understood that when you start to think of something a lot, somehow you become hyper aware of it in the world around you (this is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon!) For example, if you’re looking into buying a new Ford Fiesta, guess what you start to see driving around? The same is true for babies. If you are thinking about having a baby, it seems like there are an awful lot of newborns being pushed down the street, or popping up on Facebook announcements. 

But recent research has just been released from the ONS which shows that this boom in lockdown babies didn’t actually happen, in fact the fertility rate decreased.  

COVID lockdown restrictions in March 2020 did not lead to a baby boom – and the total fertility rate in England and Wales for 2021 could end up being the lowest ever recorded, ONS data suggests.

Fertility rates for December 2020 and January 2021 showed “relatively steep decreases” compared with the equivalent month the previous year, down by 8.1% and 10.2% respectively, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Live births in these months would have mostly been conceived in the weeks after the first coronavirus lockdown came into force.

However, couples got busy when restrictions lifted in the summer months.

This data makes sense to me and reflects what I see in my practice. For many couples (approx 40%) it is quite tricky to conceive and on average takes up to 12 months. A spontaneous change in lifestyle is not going to immediately improve your chances of conceiving. All positive improvements to diet and lifestyle usually take about 3 months to benefit fertility, which just so happened to coincide with the lockdown lifting. 

The other thing to note is that when lockdown lifted, the number of people going out on dates increased which may also have increased the fertility rate! 

My crude conclusion is that lockdown did not magically create babies. Lockdown forced us to change our behaviour which, after 3 months of healthy living, paid off and babies were conceived (plus a few one-night-stand babies!)

It’s also worth remembering that if you make changes to your lifestyle, to be healthier in order to conceive, this won’t ever be a waste of time or effort. You may not get immediate results, because creating a human life is complex, but the benefits will still be realised in the long term. Sometimes I think that couples who struggle to conceive have an incentive to improve their health in their 30’s, when most people don’t look at this until they are much older. Hopefully avoiding medical and menopausal issues later in life. Adopting a clean, healthy way of living is never a waste of time, so hang on in there.

Be patient and keep up the good work. It will all be worth it in the end.