Some New Zealand hospitals are reporting a baby boom following lockdown; one says the number of women at its maternity ward has increased by 44 per cent since last year.
Middlemore Hospital was seeing a daily average of 34 new patients to its maternity ward between December 2019 and January 2020. This summer the number has jumped to 49.
Middlemore Hospital obstetrician Dr Sarah Corbett told the Herald the past four weeks had felt really busy, and every delivery room was full.
"Often you have ups and downs, but recently it's felt constantly busy.
"We've been saying 'what's going on, why is it so busy' and then we calculated it and realised it has been nine months since the start of lockdown," Corbett said.
It comes after last week the Herald reported hospitals across the country were experiencing a surge in demand, citing GPs taking longer holidays after Covid and people putting off seeing a doctor while away.
Rotorua Hospital also reported its maternity ward had been much busier last month, with 124 deliveries compared to December 2019 when there were 98.
A spokeswoman at Wairarapa DHB said: "December was busy, and we expect February and March to be much the same. January has mostly been very settled, with a few very busy days."
Canterbury DHB had a slight rise in births from 448 in December 2019 to 468 last month but said lockdown was not behind the increase.
Norma Campbell, director of midwifery at Canterbury DHB, said the increase was not significant and likely because of population growth.
"We are slightly busier than usual due to a higher number of preterms, but that has nothing to do with either Covid-19 or the lockdown period last year," Campbell said.
South Canterbury DHB said a rise from 40 births in December 2019 to 49 last month wasn't enough of an increase beyond normal fluctuations day by day, which are standard in a maternity ward.
Whanganui DHB had similar results, with 136 discharges from the maternity ward last summer (December to January) compared to this year's 146.
"It's increased, but similar patterns can be seen in the past," a DHB spokesman said.
At West Coast DHB, the number of births had almost halved; 47 babies were born between December 2019 and January 2020, compared to 26 this year.
Debbie Fisher, associate director of midwifery for Nelson Marlborough Health, said: "We haven't seen a significant increase in births for December-January across the district compared to other years. Wairau had a few more births in December, but this was within normal monthly fluctuations that we expect."
A New Zealand College of Midwives spokeswoman said there was an assumption that with more people spending time at home during lockdown there would be a baby boom.
"But I can't say we have seen any evidence of that. Often our members will get in touch if they are feeling stressed or overworked but we haven't had a single call or email," she said.
Other DHBs including Auckland, Waitematā, Capital and Coast weren't able to respond within a three-day timeframe and requested the information be sought through an Official Information Act.
Shub Nanda, 29, didn't expect to get pregnant during lockdown.
"We'd been thinking about getting pregnant but hadn't actively started trying, then all of a sudden it was very serious, like okay we are having a baby."
After coming back from a Europe trip with her husband in January, Nanda started work as a locum optometrist and had been travelling around the country.
When lockdown happened she had to return back to Auckland and couldn't work under level 4 and 3 restrictions.
"If it hadn't been for lockdown, we probably wouldn't have had all that time together and I probably wouldn't have got pregnant when I did."
She and her husband Raman Prabhakar were thrilled to welcome their baby girl, Thea, into the world on January 17, a week after her due date.
But getting maternity care through the public system was difficult.
"We came across a few areas where we felt that the lockdown babies had really put the pressure on the maternity services like booking an ultrasound scan and getting an Anti-D injection," she said.
Some women with negative blood types may need an antibody known as Anti-D immunoglobulin when they are about 36 weeks' pregnant, to help safeguard the baby.
The Papakura mum said they made the decision to go privately because she wasn't able to get the Anti-D injection through the public system.
"Getting an obstetrician privately was the next hurdle because they were just so so booked out until like April.
"If the private system is fully booked, I can't even imagine what the public system must be like."
She said it was only because she had a contact within the obstetrician community that she was able to get in.
"Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to and I think that's just because so many people are having babies at the moment."