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Coronavirus Kent: Could the Covid-19 lockdown lead to the UK's next baby boom?

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During lockdown, it's only natural that we all find something to pass the time.

However, some of us are being more productive than others, and many, including the minister responsible for maternity services, feel that the results may show themselves in nine months time.

Home testing kits are giving women the results they need
Home testing kits are giving women the results they need

With many couples in quarantine together, we asked pharmacists across Kent whether or not they had seen a spike in pregnancy test sales since lockdown began on Monday, March 23.

Sunil Kochhar, owner and pharmacist at Regent Pharmacies in Windmill Street, Gravesend, said: "We have seen an increase in both pregnancy test and emergency contraception sales.

"After the first two weeks of the initial lockdown individuals were buying more pregnancy tests, but sales have spiked as people are buying more than just one test per person.

"This is because many doctors and midwifery clinics are closed due to the current situation and women are taking multiple tests to be sure that they are, in fact, pregnant."

Many have speculated that a baby boom may either begin as a result of the coronavirus lockdown or start when couples are reunited when social distancing restrictions are lifted.

A baby boom is a temporary marked increase in birth rates. The UK's biggest historic baby boom came in two waves.

Babies conceived during lockdown will arrive around Christmas time.
Babies conceived during lockdown will arrive around Christmas time.

After a short first wave of the baby boom during the Second World War and immediately after, peaking in 1946, the United Kingdom experienced a second wave during the 1960s, with a peak in births in 1964.

It is believed that the "relative income theory" explains the rise by suggesting that the late 1940s and 50s brought low desires to have material objects, because of the Great Depression and the Second World War. With many couples reunited after the war, it was only a matter of time before they started a family.

Aaron Jangra, owner of the Chatham, Merlin Pharmacy branch, said: "We have sold a lot more morning-after pills recently, but we haven't really sold any more pregnancy tests than we normally do.

"We are selling contraception more regularly, such as the combined pill, but I don't think we can really use that as an indicator.

"As doctors' surgeries are closed, women who usually get their repeat birth control prescription from them are coming to us instead to get the medication.

"So I can't say for certain if there has been a rise since the lockdown as there are lots of other factors involved in the sales."

A pregnancy testing kit. Picture: istock
A pregnancy testing kit. Picture: istock

Anwa Ali, a pharmacist at the Rochester Merlin Pharmacy branch, said: "We haven't really seen an increase in pregnancy test sales but we are serving a lot of women who are going onto the pill."

At the end of March, Nadine Dorries, MP and Health Minister for patient safety, suicide prevention and mental health took to Twitter to voice her opinion on the matter.

She said: "As the minister responsible for maternity services, I’m just wondering how busy we are going to be, nine months from now."

In 2012, Britain experienced another baby boom as the number of births hit the highest level in 40 years. The country saw 813,200 births in the year to June 2012, the largest number since 1972, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Six years later, in 2018, a total 657,076 babies were born in England and Wales – down 3.2% on 2017, and nearly 10% on 2012.

Are many about to hear the patter of tiny feet? Photo Radar
Are many about to hear the patter of tiny feet? Photo Radar

It was believed that the figure was down to a range of factors, including shifting social attitudes to parenthood and the effect of migration.

Manager and pharmacist Krunal Vyas has worked at Sheppey Community Hospital's pharmacy for 11 years. He said: "We have seen more pregnancy test sales.

"We haven't sold any more emergency contraception than we usually would, but we are currently selling much more contraception than we normally do.

"We'd normally sell two to three contraceptives a week, but now we are selling two to three a day."

Golf Road Pharmacy in Deal has seen a slight increase since lockdown began.

Pharmacist Wing Yap said: "We have sold a few more pregnancy tests than usual, but in our pharmacy we haven't really sold much more contraception than before lockdown."

Will there be another baby boom?
Will there be another baby boom?

Home pregnancy tests are a cheap and effective way of learning when you should see the doctor about your pregnancy.

Pregnancy tests work by detecting the hormone HCG – or human chorionic gonadotropin – in a woman's blood or urine, which is produced when an egg is implanted in the uterus.

Alice Hanore, a dispenser at Penenden Heath Pharmacy in Maidstone, said: "We have definitely seen a rise in pregnancy test sales.

"We have also sold a couple of emergency contraceptions, but not many.

"We sell both cheaper pregnancy tests, and more expensive ones like the Clear Blue brand, but more people are definitely buying the cheaper ones since lockdown began."

Women need to know if they are pregnant and need medical checks
Women need to know if they are pregnant and need medical checks

However, some pharmacies say that they have seen no increase or difference in sales following the lockdown.

Lindsey, a dispenser at Paydens Ltd in Dartford who declined to give her surname, said: "At this time, I can say we have 100% not seen an increase in pregnancy test sales. I think I've only sold one since this all started, but I can understand why there might be a boom as a result of lockdown."

East Street Pharmacy in Tonbridge has also seen no increase in sales.

Pharmacist Don, who also declined to give his surname, said: "In the last few weeks I've seen no significant rise in pregnancy test sales, and in that time frame I have only sold one emergency contraceptive."

Time will tell – babies will be due around Christmas.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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