Is Missoula experiencing a post-Sept. 11 baby boom? The buzz around town suggests that people are seeing greater numbers of pregnant women in Missoula than is usual for this time of year.
According to statistics for the last five years, the number of births each year in Missoula typically increases from April through June, and again in September and October. During these peak periods at Missoula’s Community Hospital the obstetrics staff delivers an average of 130 to 155 babies each month. Overall, about1,500 babies are born at Community Hospital each year. According to Madalyn Crouch, clinical manager for Women’s and Children’s Services at Community Hospital, the average number for the year to date has remained relatively stable.
“March was an unusually slow month, so that brought the average down a little,” says Crouch. “But if the average stays high (around 155 births each month) for the next few months that might cause an increase” in the average yearly birth rate.
Right now, experts say it’s too early to know for certain what will happen. If a baby boom is occurring, it is just beginning now. Crouch suggests we check back with her in a few months.
Dolly Browder, a local midwife, says from her experience that the numbers of expectant mothers in Missoula in June and July this year may be high but “blips [in the numbers of births] happen for a lot of different reasons. This year is not unusual.” The staff at Missoula Ob-Gyn Associates, a collective association of midwives at Fort Missoula, says the numbers of pregnant women they are caring for is “at the high end of average.”
Asked if psychological stress from the tragic events of Sept. 11 might cause a baby boom, Dr. David Stroebel, dean of the graduate program in psychology at the University of Montana, says that in a rural town like Missoula the increase in birth rates is unlikely to be large enough to infer Sept. 11 was the cause. Dr. Stroebel suggests that greater sampling of birth rates in rural towns across the country, especially in comparison to birth rates in New York City, might show trends that cannot be seen locally.
He points out that in some cases of physical stress, it has been shown that human fecundity increases—to a point. However, if the stress become too harsh hormonal cycles shut down and populations tend to decrease. Evidence shows that the cyclical patterns of the seasons can greatly affect human reproductive rates. In northern climates the longer nights and a greater tendency to stay indoors in fall and winter months often causes an increase in summer and autumn birth rates the following year.