Virtua Health saw a record setting number of newborn babies in 2021, with 9,109 in three of its locations, a 7 percent increase from the year before.
For a year with so many medical challenges related to the pandemic, the “baby boom” that South Jersey experienced is a breath of fresh air for Virtua employees. Virtua Voorhees Nursing Director Chrissy McDonald joked that births are down everywhere except in New Jersey,
“All of the nurses are on Facebook and a lot of the news outlets are reporting that births were down; clearly that isn’t the case for us,” said McDonald, who attributes the increase in childbirths to the expansion of Virtua Voorhees’ health campus.
“I think the fact that we offer so many services now, the fact that we have the birth and wellness center … that added to some of the volume,” she added.
The birth and wellness center opened in the fall adjacent to the Voorhees campus. It is the only free-standing birthing center in South Jersey and is designed to resemble a home birth with a natural approach.
Dr. Nicole Lamborne, vice president of Clinical Operations for Women’s Services, said the center has been an idea long in the making.
“The (birthing center) has been in the works since 2015,” Lambone said. “There was a clear demand from our community for it as we looked at about 200 to 250 births leaving our geographic area to find that experience outside of New Jersey,” said Lamborne, who says the birthing center has been a success so far in part because it gives mothers another option to remain safe during the pandemic.
“I think it’s going to be wildly successful … Right now, it’s actually outpacing any of the projections we had anticipated,” she noted. “I also think the timing with the pandemic is interesting as well, because we’ve seen a greater interest in other delivery options. [We have seen] women that were fearful of the infection risk and afraid to come to the hospital.”
Lamborne said it doesn’t appear the 2021 births constitute a “pandemic baby boom.”
“The rest of the country is not reporting a boom,” she explained. “I think it’s a lot of things. We have developed a lot of new programs here at Virtua.’
Both Lamborne and McDonald think the record births are likely due to Virtua’s care and expansion.
“I’m very proud from a leadership standpoint here,” McDonald said. “Our nurses adjusted constantly, but at the same time, I felt like they [nurses/staff] always kept the patients and safety at the forefront.
“We do interviews with families afterwards, and it’s very common to hear a lot of them say they had a wonderful birthing experience, like they didn’t even know we were in a pandemic,” she added.
Virtua is also expected to help birth 25 babies a month this year from displaced Afghan mothers currently residing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and throughout South Jersey.
“Now that we have a lot of processes in place and better communication with the base, we can get more accurate numbers of women who are pregnant,” Lamborne explained.
“As of the end of last week, we have done over 115 births for Afghan births, and the current number continues to rise …”