As life slowly returns to pre-pandemic norms, a trend has emerged among celebrities: They've had "secret" COVID babies.
Emmy Rossum, Mindy Kaling, Troian Bellisario, Jessica Biel and more have given birth during the pandemic, with most not even publicly revealing their news until the baby had arrived. Biel recently shared on the latest episode of Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast that she didn't mean to have "a secret COVID baby" when she had her son, Phineas, who is now 11 months old.
"It wasn't like it was supposed to be a secret," she said. "It was just COVID happened and then I went to Montana with my family and never left." Biel pointed out that there was a lot of uncertainty during her pregnancy. "The hospital restrictions had just changed," she said. "And there was a moment there that there was nobody allowed at all and I was really getting nervous about that situation." But, she said, her husband Justin Timberlake was able to be present for the birth of their second son.
Kaling, who gave birth to her son Spencer in September, said during the #WOW2021 event in May that while having a new baby during the pandemic is "wonderful," it has come with its own challenges. "I don't know if I recommend everyone having a secret pregnancy during a worldwide pandemic, but I will say I learned a lot from it," she said. "Definitely like a once in a lifetime type of thing."
But whether you're famous or not, being pregnant during a global pandemic had its ups and downs.
New mom Christy Miller, who lives in Dagsboro, Delaware, told Yahoo Life that her pregnancy was "pretty easy to hide."
"Many people wouldn't have known" she was pregnant unless she told them, she said.
Still, Miller's pregnancy didn't follow her original plan. Miller and her husband Robbie had planned to get married in early May 2020 but had to delay their wedding due to pandemic restrictions. "We were originally going to start trying for a baby as soon as we were married, but we figured we'd still go ahead with our plans anyway," she said. "The pandemic couldn't stop that." By the end of May, Miller was pregnant.
Miller said there were some definite perks of being pregnant during the pandemic. "Both of us were working from home and I was able to take it really easy on my body," she says. "I had Rob here to help me with everything. Instead of a babymoon, we had nine whole months together, which was really nice." Miller said she also "felt safer, germs-wise," given that she and others wore masks in public.
But having a COVID baby had its challenges. "We had to quarantine ourselves a little more when I hit my third trimester — that was when [COVID case] numbers started to rise again," Miller said. "We missed out on holidays, but all of our family understood." Miller said she was also "nervous" about hospital procedures before giving birth. She needed to have a C-section and would have to have a negative COVID-19 test beforehand. "If I had somehow gotten exposed and contracted the virus, I would have been worried that my husband wouldn't be able to be there, or that I couldn't see my baby after she was born," she said.
Miller's daughter, Brynlee, was born on January 21, 2021.
Despite what seems like a rise in secret COVID babies, births across the country are actually down. In fact, the Brookings Institute says that there will be an estimated 300,000 fewer births in 2021 because of lower-than-usual conception levels during the pandemic, terming it a "baby bust."
"Ohio reflects this trend," Dr. Michael Cackovic, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Yahoo Life, citing "uncertainty of the pandemic, as well as the political situation over the same period."
Dr. Christine Greves, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida, told Yahoo Life that her hospital system has also noticed a "slight decrease" in births during the pandemic.
But Greves says that many patients found upsides to having a pandemic pregnancy. "They liked being able to be home more," she said. Pregnant women are "more susceptible to infection during their pregnancy because of lowered immunity," women's health expert Jennifer Wider, tells Yahoo Life, but COVID-19 prevention measures like masks and social distancing helped keep many expectant moms healthy.
Greves said that she saw fewer patients with issues like ear infections, respiratory infections and gastrointestinal bugs "because people were wearing masks or not socializing as much."
"There were definitely advantages," she said.
Still, Cackovic pointed out, there were plenty of negatives to being pregnant during a pandemic. "Each venture out was a potential exposure until the vaccine became readily available," he said. "Hospitalization required combinations of COVID testing, a lone support person, quarantining and fear of infection for both mom and baby." Patients were also nervous about "limited childcare opportunities, as many centers were closed," he said.
Now, though, Greves said things are starting to return to business as usual. "Things are normalizing," she said. "We're still wearing masks in our hospital, but I don't mind."
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