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Generation 'Coronial': Will Self-Isolation Lead To A Baby Boom?

They’ve been jokingly referred to as generation ‘coronial’, based as the belief that while social distancing is mandated in public, the impact in the bedroom will be quite the opposite.

The memes circulating on social media have been plentiful, predicting social isolation will  bring intimate partners closer. On Instagram hashtag 'coronials' brings up thousands of post.

With millions of romantic partners home together indefinitely, some have surmised by December, there will be an influx of births.

Whether it's a pandemic or natural disaster, fertility trends are generally predictable --  births drop at first and then rise.

But there are some anomalies, where despite the usual trend there will be a baby boom. This is best explained when you look back at major global life-altering periods.

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"This home-bound baby boom idea comes from when there was a power failure in New York (in 1977) and there was said to be a spike in pregnancies because of the very brief blackout and everyone was home together," Professor Janet McCallum, from University of Melbourne's School Of Population And Global Health, said.

And while true, in that instance, she said the same thinking can't be applied broadly.

The Spanish Flu

In 1918, this particularly devastating epidemic impacted nearly a quarter of the world’s population and is believed to have caused between five and ten times as many deaths as WWI.

Birth rates during both global events dropped.

Both the war and Spanish influenza took their heaviest toll among males aged between 20 and 40 years. But then -- about  10 or 11 months after the pandemic -- fertility began to rebound and birth rates increased.

1918: Nurses care for victims of a Spanish influenza epidemic outdoors amidst canvas tents during an outdoor fresh air cure, Lawrence, Massachusetts. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In Sweden, Norway, Taiwan, Japan, India, and the United States there was a notable increase in births in the one to five years that followed.

Figures from the Australian Institute of Family Studies show marriage and birth rates followed a similar pattern locally.

McCallum said this pattern is also likely to play out with COVID-19.

"The thing that is different about this pandemic it is going to be very prolonged. It's much more like the war and not a blackout ... everything normal, pretty much everything stopped, marriage were put off so what happened during the war was the birth rate fell," she told 10 daily.

Hurricanes And Other Natural Disasters

Research here is mixed and for years experts have debated whether there is a clear link between natural disasters and baby boomlets.

"I think it is a widespread belief after natural disasters there is a marked increase in birth rates, the idea that more people are stuck at home and having sex," Jane Fisher, Finkel Professor of Global Public Health at Monash University said.

It is thought an ice storm in Greater Toronto in recent years caused an uptick in babies born in the area in September 2014. At the time people were forced to work from home due to downed power lines. These births were dubbed "ice storm babies".

Ice storm in Canada. Image: Getty Images

Yet, a similar ice storms in Canada both in Quebec and Ontario 20 years prior did not experience the same baby boom.

A study examining cyclones and hurricanes in the US found some pregnancy increases were linked to people's inability to access health care and pharmacies for contraception.

Theresa McCloud of New Orleans feeds her grandchild, D.J. McCloud, 6 weeks, while waiting for a ride to a shelter at the Dallas Convention Center September, 3 2005. Image: Getty Images

"At the moment in Australia, you can still access contraception and get to your pharmacy, you aren't restricted in that way like people can be with natural disasters, there also aren't supply issues," she told 10 daily.

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However, Fisher said there is evidence to suggest that loss of loved ones during natural disasters --  especially children -- can lead to more births.

"When people experience bereavement there is often a deep desire to re-create life and this underpins things like the baby boom after WW2 and a similar trend was seen after the Boxing Day Tsunami where many families lost children," she said.

She also pointed out that given elderly people are most likely to die from COVID-19, this desire may not be as strong.

"For COVID-19 my hypothesis is there wont be this type of boom in Australia, because those most vulnerable and likely to die are the elderly," Fisher told 10 daily.

Recession

MccCallum said the biggest factor people consider when having children, is the state of the economy.

"I think with this pandemic -- which we will be lucky get out of in 12 months -- what we are in for is not just staying home for a while but the collapse of the economy and for young people who want to start a family or have more kids this is going to put them off until it is over as it did in the war and as it did in the Great Depression," she said.

She said when people have confidence in their society they will have children, if they don't, they wont.

"But if we get it right and manage the economy there's no reason that can't return to normal afterwards."

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au 

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Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au