New York City is about to experience a baby “bump” — as pandemic pregnancies are on the rise and more women are seeking fertility treatments, doctors told The Post.
“It’s a boom time here,” said Dr. David Keefe, an NYU Langone Health fertility specialist. “I think for many people this pandemic has sort of forced a reconciliation of what really matters.”
At Northwell Health, the state’s biggest hospital network, birth rates are expected to begin to increase in January by 2 or 3 percent, said Dr. Michael Nimaroff, senior vice president of OB-GYN Services.
In a typical year, they see 30,000 births but in 2021 they’re expecting about 750 more. Nimaroff said the network’s 40 obstetrical practices, located in New York City, Westchester and Long Island, began seeing an increase in patients around May. Fertility specialists are also treating more women.
Nationwide, births hit the lowest level in more than 30 years in 2019, after declining for five years. The number of births in 2019 fell around 1 percent from 2018, to about 3.7 million.
“Even a small increase … that’s a positive,” Nimaroff added.
On the early side of the boomlet were Post staffers Jessica Hober, a photo editor, and her photographer husband Matt McDermott. The Astoria couple welcomed daughter Billie Jeanne on Nov. 28.
Already parents to a son, Dean, now 3, they had casually been thinking about having another child when the pandemic lockdown helped things along.
“We think [conception] happened sometime right after the shutdown — interesting timing,” McDermott said with a laugh. “Hey you know, when the outside world shuts down, what do you expect when you’re home alone a lot with your wife? It’s what happens naturally.”
Hober said that when she learned she was pregnant, the pandemic was in such early stages that she didn’t know enough to be scared.
“But after just a couple of weeks we could see how extreme it was getting,” she said. “And here I was with a husband off on the front lines, shooting [photographs] in the ICU and everywhere else. He was out there every day. I trusted him to be as safe as possible. But still some of the times I made him stand outside in the hallway before he came in and take off all his clothes.”
McDermott, for his part, drove around in his SUV filled with bleach, disinfectant, hand wipes and everything else he could think of to keep himself safe — and protect his wife, son and unborn child at home.
“I was scared all the time of bringing the bug home,” he recalled.
Even so, McDermott later found out that one of the reporters who had been in his car had COVID at the time and no one knew it.
“And I was coming home to a wife with a low immune system,” McDermott said. The couple were rocked when they learned of the COVID-related death of their good friend, Post photographer Anthony Causi, in early April. Causi was 48 years old.
“When Anthony passed it was so awful,” Hober said. “It was then we knew, this is really real.”
The McDermott’s at home in bed: Jessica (from left), Dean, Billie Jeanne and Matthew.Matthew McDermott
Still, McDermott said, leaving his job, even temporarily, was out of the question: “First responders have to go out there, so do photojournalists. It’s our job.”
Not that that makes things any less nerve-wracking — even for doctors.
Dr. Sharon Quayle was, up until Oct. 30, the interim director at Montefiore Nyack Hospital and recalled how the first few weeks of the pandemic were especially tough.
“Those first three weeks were just so frightening for everyone,” Quayle, an OB-GYN, said. “Every day you would go to work you were scared. I was afraid of giving it to my family.”
Patients have been scared, too. The CDC, in a November study, said pregnant women face a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 if they become infected.
Brooklyn mom Theda Beyda-Tawil was relieved she had already conceived her third child just before lockdown began. Otherwise, she might have waited.
‘I was scared all the time of bringing the bug home.’
“It wasn’t like something I had to decide,” said the special education teacher, 29.
Her initial doctor’s visits were virtual, and she had to wear a mask to deliver daughter Rochelle on Dec. 7 at NYU Langone in Manhattan.
“It was very different — with my other two [births] I had family members in the hospital,” said Beyda-Tawil.
She was lucky to have her husband there. Women who delivered in New York City hospitals early in the pandemic weren’t allowed to have anyone with them at all. (In May, Gov. Cuomo announced by executive order that women be allowed to have a partner in both the labor and delivery room.)
That was enough to make some pregnant women skip the hospital.
“There was a big group of patients who ended up looking for home birth midwives,” Quayle said. “They didn’t even want to come to the hospital.”
Quayle said Montefiore Nyack had two operating rooms for pregnant women needing C-sections: a regular OR and a Covid OR for those who were infected or suspected to have the virus.
“We tried to keep it as safe as we could but with [births] happening in the middle of the night or emergencies, we just had to do the best we could,” Quayle explained.
McDermott wasn’t allowed at all of his wife’s check-ups during pregnancy, and said that was hard.
“I was completely removed from the whole experience until the birth in a way,” McDermott said. “For a dad, those visits to see the ultrasound and hear the heartbeats are what make it real. It was sort of an odd disconnection.”
“I sent Matt videos of the ultrasound so he could hear the heartbeats,” Hober said, adding that, in spite of the challenges, she never considered anything but a hospital birth. She delivered Billie Jeanne via C-section at Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side, wearing a mask at all times except during the surgery.
While deliveries are currently down about 10 percent at NYU Langone’s hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn and on Long Island, Dr. Keefe, who is also head of obstetrics and gynecology, said that is about to change — in part because women who had to put fertility treatments on hold at the beginning of the pandemic, as specialists’ offices closed, were highly motivated to resume their efforts.
Hober has noticed a baby boom at her son’s day care.“I see a lot of pregnant bellies,” she said. “Everybody’s home. It’s a good time to do the family thing.”
Beth Patton and her husband, Chris, had been trying to get pregnant before the COVID outbreak hit New York and weren’t stopped by fear.
“The discussion we basically had was, there’s never really a good time to get pregnant,” she said.
Chris and Beth Patton, along with their son Xaiden, 3, inside their Astoria, Queens home.Matthew McDermott
But when the couple, who have a 3-year-old son, Xaiden, found out in May that they were expecting, they faced an unexpected challenge: Beth had been furloughed from her HR job. She has since been brought back.
The baby is due Jan. 27 and Beth will deliver at Lenox Hill Hospital, which is part of the Northwell network.She said that, with the vaccine on the horizon, the prospect of bringing a baby into the world seems less scary: “There’s something to be said about looking forward to 2021 — watching our second son come into the world and knowing that there’s a brighter future ahead.”
McDermott and Hober second that.
“I’ve seen this [virus] up close and personal. I’ve seen the pain and the bodies,” McDermott said. “It’s not a joke. But hopefully we’re coming out the other end of it. And now we have a little girl who made our Christmas. We have a lot to be thankful for.”
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