Many believe that nine months following a significant power outage or natural disaster a different phenomenon rears its head. A baby boom. Nine months after nearly every newsworthy natural disaster, media outlets report a frenzy of births. These births have been highlighted most recently post Hurricane Sandy, Irma, Maria, Harvey, and the enormous snowstorm of 2015 in Buffalo.
So, is it true? The research isn’t exactly clear-cut here.
The Fertility Effect
There is talk of a baby boom in the nine months following 9/11. Other booms have been reported nine months following a Super Bowl win for the home team. A 2007 study from Brigham University compiled a list of births nine months following storm advisories in Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. This study discovered, “a positive and significant fertility effect”, during low-severity storms, not major catastrophes. This increase in pregnancies was highest among couples with at least one other child. This study found that major catastrophic events lowered birth rates. Richard Evans, an Assistant professor who worked on the study said, “If the lights and the T.V. are out, it kind of sets the table for romance . . . But, if you’re running for your life, you can’t make babies.”
The Stuff Urban Legends Are Made Of
Philip Morgan, Professor of Sociology and Demography at Duke University who focuses on fertility says, “It’s an urban legend”. He says there is no reason to believe that events like the August 14, 2003 blackout that impacted 55 million people led to a larger than average number of May 2004 babies. Morgan speaks to the practicality of such situations. He talks about people being stranded thanks to transit issues and not being able to physically get to their partners, or the lack of air conditioning on a hot summer night leading to people wanting to remain cool instead of making babies. He also reminds people, that those using contraception on the night of the blackout wouldn’t be likely to conceive anyway.
A 2008 Case Study In The Making
For four weeks in 2008, a portion of the island of Zanzibar lost electricity. Because some of the island maintained power during this month, they were able to compare birth rates in areas which maintained their power grid directly with those who had not. Data from this comparison showed that those without electricity had a 17 percent higher birth rate, compared to those who maintained power.
Nature Finds A Way
Research on the impact to locals following the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist bombing discovered an uptick in births nine months later. It is speculated that those living closest to the bombing site felt their own mortality. In turn they instinctually responded by increasing their familial lineage.
Hospitals reporting busier times on the birthing wards nine months post storm or other event are rarely scientifically tracked. This makes results unreliable at best. Articles following the November 9th, 1965 power outage suggested a spike in births. One hospital said they usually had 11 births on a typical day, but that number jumped to 29, nine months following the power outage. The statistical validity of these numbers is iffy.
The Final Word
To date there is no conclusive evidence that a state of emergency is going to lead to a baby boom. Today scientists are keeping better track of data. This should lead to a real answer on this suggested phenomenon. Still, many people were conceived or had children thanks to a power outage, or storm related babies! If you had a blackout baby boom, share your story. We’d love to here it!
Whether you believe in the baby boom or not you may want to include some form of birth control in your family emergency kit, as well as CarGenerator to run your electricity the next time the power goes out, just in case.